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Building the ULA …. April 28, 2011

Posted by irishelectionliterature in ULA.
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There’s an article on The Socialist Party Website on building the ULA. Its fairly insightful as to where the ULA are with regard to becoming a party and the possible tensions within the ULA.

A few quotes…

The Socialist Party proposed that a ULA membership should now be established. A ULA membership card has been produced and a recruitment leaflet will be available soon so activists can engage in an organised recruitment drive.

………


The Socialist Workers Party seems to favour launching a new party immediately, dismissing the problems that the current mood of the working class poses and warning against delays and conservatism. However, that has more to do with inappropriate impatience than a serious approach to building a new party.

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Comments»

1. Blissett - April 28, 2011

Are there any substantial differences in any area of policy between the SP and the SWP that are/could/will act as stumbling blocks?

PS This is a question asked in good faith, so kindly don’t bite my head off please folks.

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2. Fight the cuts - April 28, 2011

Please retract that Blissett, trots arguing over tiny points of difference can be time consuming and annoying in equal measure!

I don’t get this article, why release it in public? Why not raise these points internally? Seems very immature to me.

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Blissett - April 28, 2011

Hence ‘substantial’.

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3. Scabby Rabbit - April 28, 2011

The debate about what direction the ULA ought to take is happening now. I welcome any article or piece written in good faith that contributes to that debate.

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4. E - April 28, 2011

@Fight the cuts, as a member of the SWP, we have published the text of the leaflet we distributed at the ULA meetings, can’t see the problem with the SP also publishing their views openly.. in fact I was expecting it..

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neilcaff - April 28, 2011

Hi E, is there a link on your website for that leaflet?

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irishelectionliterature - April 28, 2011

I didn’t see anything on the SWP website nor in the latest edition of Socialist Worker.

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5. Mark P - April 28, 2011

The ULA is establishing branches, establishing an individual membership list and heading towards a convention. The kind of diplomatic silence about disagreements which was appropriate when it was an alliance of three organisations isn’t really appropriate for a living organisation with its own members and structures.

There is a huge amount of agreement about the ULA between the main affiliate groups. But there are also disagreements and differences of emphasis.

If people newly getting involved in the ULA are to have a clue what’s going on and are to be able to play a full role in decision making then we all have to be clear about what the distinct views actually are. The three affiliates simply negotiating with each other and then presenting a fait accompli to the world was an appropriate way to get an alliance off the ground, it would not be an appropriate way to run a political alliance however.

As E mentions, the Socialist Party and SWP have distributed leaflets at ULA meetings putting forward their views on the best way forward for the alliance. I would welcome the Workers and Unemployed Action Group doing the same, and the same goes for other members. It’s important not to take a denunciatory tone, not to make mountains of molehills and to recognise what we have in common. But there are different opinions on various issues and it’s best that they be clearly and honestly expressed.

The core disagreement in the ULA is over how left wing it should be. All of the affiliates understand that the alliance is not going to start out by adopting their full programme (if for instance the WUAG and PBP had become convinced of the Socialist Party’s full politics, they would presumably just join the Socialist Party. And vice versa). However, that still leaves a huge range of possibilities in terms of political positions.

The Socialist Party is of the view that the ULA should have as left wing a programme as possible. It should be explicitly in favour of socialism. It should argue for nationalisation under democratic control rather than simply taxing the rich (although it should also do the latter). It should have no fear of demanding rises in corporation taxes.

Some others involved, particularly the SWP, are opposed to this stance, preferring a less radical ULA. They take the view that too left wing an approach would “narrow the appeal” of the ULA. In particular, they think that Labour Party politicians and existing independent politicians represent important constituencies for the ULA to attract and they think that taking too left a stance would scare such people away.

These are things that reasonable people can debate in a fraternal manner, and they are things that will have to be debated and discussed if the ULA is to grow.

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revolutionaryprogramme - April 29, 2011

Well it seems unclear what the SWP are for. Kieran Allen at the Cork meeting was in fact more forthright than Claire Daly in arguing that the new organisation should be explicitly socialist.

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6. E - April 28, 2011
7. Fight the cuts - April 28, 2011

Ok, I agree that each group should get their own feelings across, but distributing your own leaflets at ULA meetings and posting your disagreements on your websites..how about actually debating these issues internally, within the constituent organisations and then debate them to a resolution at the ULA conference?

I agree with the SP’s stance on a number of things, particularly the necessity for a radical, socialist programme and not pandering to Labour members. Labour are not of the left, how much more proof to people need? The ULA should worry about itself.

Either way the programme of the ULA needs to be water-tight, the left cannot rely on rhetoric and slogans of ‘tax the rich’ any more. What is needed is a professional sub-dept within the ULA working on research and policy.

I think there needs to come a time, when the ULA develops a little bit, for a mass internal conference to be called. This would include an invitation to reps from the CPI, IRSP, Eirigi, Workers Party etc as well as progressive independents and progressive academics/economists.

Also with this membership drive, when people join the ULA are they simply ‘ULA members’ without SP and SWP? My fear is with leaflets being put out that are specific to one group and papers from one group, poaching will occur but also more worryingly, the impact of the ULA will be more limited.

Might aswell ask while I’m here, any more word of extending the ULA to involve others?

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8. Fight the cuts - April 28, 2011

Oh and btw, agree with the SWP stance of expanding into the North.

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9. Mark P - April 28, 2011

To address your questions and points Fight The Cuts:

These issues are being discussed within the affiliates (or at least they are within the Socialist Party) and they will be discussed in the new ULA branches and at the ULA conference.

The ULA now has an individual membership, which means that you can be a ULA member (as opposed to supporter), you will be able to take part in ULA branches and you will be able be to take part in decision making, conference etc without having to be a member of one of the affiliate parties.

The affiliate organisations have not dissolved (and will not be dissolving in the near future), so you can be a member of the ULA alone or the ULA plus an affiliate. The affiliate organisations will no doubt try to win other ULA members over to their politics, which in my view is fair enough rather than something which should be regarded as “poaching”.

I agree with you that the ULA should devote considerable time, effort and resources to developing a coherent programme and that the programme should be socialist in nature.

I agree with you that orienting to the Labour Party is a waste of time, given that there are so few members of that party who could be regarded as leftists of any stripe (circa 50 nationally, judging by their recent conference). It may even be counterproductive, by bolstering Labour’s dubious credentials amongst left inclined voters.

As I understand it, the ULA has had meetings with the Workers Party (pre-election) and Communist Party (post-election), and has recently held or will soon hold meetings with a number of independent politicians. I would not personally anticipate a rush to join amongst most of these groups or individuals, although one or two might.

I do not believe it would be a good idea at all for the ULA to rush into organising in the North. The situation is different there, the left is different, and there are a lot of issues which would have to be discussed in great detail over a long period of time. There is no reality to the idea of the Southern left simply coopting the left in the North to a project arising out of Southern conditions.

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10. Fight the cuts - April 28, 2011

I don’t think the ULA came together because of objective conditions specific to the last couple years. Left unity has always been a goal of the left from my viewpoint. Your argument may have a basis if the ULA remained a loose electoral alliance with a broad programme, but with the ultimate goal being the establishment of a party, I see no reason the North should be regarded as an obstacle. The SP, SWP, IRSP, CPI, WP and eirigi are all organised there, so it won’t exactly be a massive leap. From what I know Healy and Bree also have a republican element to their politics. By no means am I saying this should happen right now, it is early says yet and things must be ironed out in the South but it certainly should be a goal.

On corporation tax, I agree and disagree with you. There is little point in calling for an increase, when the ULA’s own documents are so broad they don’t even know what increasing it would do to the exchequer, how much money money would be saved and what have you. This is what I meant by abandoning the slogans. What is needed is professional economic advice to back up calls for an increase, otherwise the ULA will get nailed by the right on the ‘job losses’ angle. And this is just one example. But from your last comment I think you appreciate the point I’m making.

On the poaching issue. I think the dynamics of an alliance type party will take a while to settle. To give an example of problem that may arise. What happens say at a meeting with a variety of speakers from other groups…potentially you could have 2 or 3 papers being sold, 2 or 3 different leaflets, sign up sheets etc at the one meeting, to the detriment of the ULA. Once formed surely as much energy as possible should be put into the ULA, which would include, ULA leaflets and a ULA paper at the meetings.

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11. Mark P - April 28, 2011

The list of organisations you mention as also organising in the North only illustrates my point. How exactly would those organisations share a party or an alliance in a context like the North where they simply don’t agree with each other at all?

In the South, there is broad agreement on a lot of things amongst the principal organisations of the socialist left. In the North, that’s a hell of a lot trickier. This can’t be wished away or rushed past, and attempts to do so would only damage the progress that’s been made in the South.

I don’t agree that the ULA should be getting into the business of “costing” proposals to run a capitalist economy. I do think however, that our proposals should be carefully researched.

As far as the kind of dynamics you are talking about are concerned, thus far there has been a self-limiting understanding amongst the affiliates. They have limited themselves to one paper seller / leafletter each at a meeting. Attendance sheets and the likes are looked after centrally. This seems fine as a way of handling things, at least so far. It’s in nobody’s interest to turn things into a competitive bear-pit.

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Jack Jameson - April 28, 2011

I don’t agree that the ULA should be getting into the business of “costing” proposals to run a capitalist economy…

Fair enough but will voters struggling in this capitalist economy buy into a project where you don’t have ‘real world’ answers to day-to-day issues (e.g. budgets and cuts, and mortgage pressures) other than sloganising about building a Socialist Workers’ Republic?

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Jim Monaghan - April 29, 2011

The real world is into endless cuts. The dictatorship of capital where needs are ignored and instead of say employing nurses to treat sick people it is better to waste these skills on the dole. Bourgeois economics at least the variety in this country refuses to challenge the premises of this

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12. Fight the cuts - April 28, 2011

On the costed policies bit. Why would you call for an increase in corporation tax as a point of policy, which no doubt would be unpopular with the vast majority of people because of conditioning by the media and other parties, when you wouldn’t even know the numbers. There is a serious problem there. Without ‘costed’ proposals to point to, the left will continue to be regarded as delluded idealists who are economically illiterate.

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Mark P - April 28, 2011

Of course, where possible, we should have a number that we expect a particular measure to raise or cost.

That’s quite distinct from putting together a costed alternative budget, a proposal to run capitalism better. We are not in the business of doing that and the result of trying to do so is to accept the rules of the capitalist game. Our fundamental proposal is to abolish capitalism.

We raise demands to further that objective, not because we think that implementing one of our demands will make the resulting variant of capitalism more efficient and nicer all at the same time – the social democratic delusion. I’m not a social democrat. I don’t believe that “fairer” capitalism is also more efficient capitalism and I think that getting involved in an argument with that as your premise is a fools game.

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DublinDilettante - April 28, 2011

I have a great deal of sympathy with that argument. The fact is, Ireland is so completely fucked that there are no reformist/social democratic routes out of crisis, which would be impossible within the context of the EU anyway (bailout or no.)

But the SP’s bullishness on this point does confuse me slightly, especially coming from a Trotskyist party. A socialist transformation of Irish society is not on the cards in the foreseeable future, and certainly won’t be brought about by the ULA. In any case, the SP believes that socialism in one country is impossible; if that’s true of any country, it’s doubly true of Ireland.

So if even an unchallenged revolutionary socialist party can’t dismantle Irish capitalism, the usefulness of a formation exclusively revolutionary in outlook and action is questionable.

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Paddy dingham - April 29, 2011

The argument about costings goes against what the socialist Party said before and during the election. It did give costings – namely on a wealth tax and on corporation tax. The problem was that those costings were fantastical and lacked credibility.

The idea of not costing a capitalist state shouldn’t preclude costing a socialist state.

It is a reasonable question for a voter to ask, how will the socialist party pay for its policies? how will it pay for the public works it has in mind? How will it pay for health and education? Cuba does it through a centrally-panned economy and bread-line wages. what is the socialist party’s solution?

I mean, forget about propping up a capitalist economy, how will a socialist economy work?

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CMK - April 28, 2011

There’s validity to putting together a coherent policy platform which, I believe, should foreground socialism as providing a viable option out of this mess.

But, the whole business of ‘costing’ policies is to fall into a well laid and very effective rhetorical trap that our indigenous capitalists and their cheerleaders in the media roll out every time alternatives to the current regime, and capitalism more generally, are discussed.

‘Costed’ policies mean nothing in state which makes the most momentous economic decision in its history (the 2008 bank guarantee) in the middle of the night based on back-of-an-envelope calculations. ‘Costed’ policies mean nothing when we still don’t know how much the banking crisis is going to cost. ‘Costing’ in meaningless in a state that goes from a government debt of about 35bn in 2006 to upwards of 200bn by 2013 a development that was never planned for or envisaged pre-2009.

By all means put figures to policies, but do so on the clear understanding that the very act of ‘costing’ your policies, in this state at least, is to take steps to ‘manage capitalism better’, something which wouldn’t be a great idea, in my view.

As regards not alienating people who are worried about paying their mortgage and under financial pressure. We’re heading into perhaps the most unmerciful crisis the capitalist class can conjure up: a sovereign default. So, while the ULA have Vincent Brown and others bellowing at them about how they’d fund the deficit we have zero debate, coverage, analysis or policies from any of the mainstream parties on how we recover from a default. Zero, nada, zip, zilch. The biggest crisis we’ll ever face is just around the corner and what I believe the ULA should be working on is crafting credible socialist solutions that will assist this society in its recovery from default.

In the post-default era we won’t be worrying about paying mortgages but rather putting food on a table might be more pressing or trying to resist whatever EU/IMF/ECB Gauleiter is installed to govern us.

The ULA will have to deal soon with conditions and a paradigm shift that no Western European socialist movement has encountered since 1945 i.e. a near complete collapse of capitalism in an advanced nation-state – that’s what should be prepared for.

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Paddy dingham - April 29, 2011

“By all means put figures to policies, but do so on the clear understanding that the very act of ‘costing’ your policies, in this state at least, is to take steps to ‘manage capitalism better’, something which wouldn’t be a great idea, in my view.”

Well again, this is a rhetoric which has very little credibility outside of socialist party faithfuls. I find it hard to believe that line has ever worked on anyone who wasn’t already convinced of it.

and that’s one of the problems facing the socialist party. It wants to put forward a socialist Ireland that is not going to cost anything.

Unless the socialist party is calling for the abolition of money, it is going to have to deal with some form of an economy where money still has a function.

What will the socialist party’s Ireland look like? Free health, education, housing, all cost-free?

what will the socialist Irish economy produce? what are current strengths which can be exploited, and where are the potential areas of development?

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Mark P - April 29, 2011

There are two distinct criticisms being raised in this discussion of the Socialist Party’s view that it isn’t a socialist party’s function to put forward “costed” proposals for the better management of capitalism.

One set is criticism from a socialist perspective – strategic criticism about winning hearts and minds. The other is criticism which rejects socialism as a goal at all. From my reading of your post, Paddy, you are rejecting socialism as an unrealistic goal. Am I correct in that reading?

The Socialist Party is fully aware that only a relatively small number of people are convinced of our central proposal. As it happens, the person you are responding to isn’t, as far as I am aware, a member of the Socialist Party, but it’s certainly true that only a narrow part of Irish society want to abolish capitalism. We are under no illusions about that.

We are also under no illusions as to the medium term viability of an isolated, socialist, Ireland. Socialism is by its very nature an international system – all the more so now that, for instance, basic electronic goods require materials and components from places all over the globe.

We are certainly not putting forward a socialism that will cost nothing. We are putting forward a vision that would be much disruptive than raising this tax or refusing to cut that service. We are in favour of taking the great bulk of the economy under democratic workers control. To be clear about it, we are in favour of a fundamental transformation of society.

Under capitalism, we push for every gain possible for the working class. We defend every worker’s wage packet and demand more. We defend every service and demand more. We oppose every regressive tax increase and support more taxes on corporations and the wealthy. But we don’t do any of that because we necessarily think that it will make the capitalist economy run more efficiently and make employers more money. Sometimes it will and sometimes it won’t. Either way that’s not the standpoint from which we assess things. The Socialist Party stands for the interests of the working class and supports it in its struggles.

This sometimes causes (honest, well meaning) reformists some considerable confusion. By and large they genuinely believe that adding some additional “fairness” to capitalism would make the capitalist economy run more efficiently. And sometimes it does. But sometimes it does not. And when forced to choose capitalist “realism” wins out. Which is one of the reasons why even honest, well meaning reformists have betrayed the interests of their working class supporters over and over again. If you let capitalism delimit the conversation then in the long run you have already conceded the game.

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13. Fight the cuts - April 28, 2011

I agree, but reality is in realpolitik, you are going to call for reformist goals along with a revolutionary programme to move towards IMO. Both needs to be costed to convince people. We’ve deal with corp tax as a reforming example.

So for a revolutionary example, the ULA could well call for one state bank under democratic ownership. It will need a lot more than the slogan itself to convince people who are already scared, let alone when the Sunday Indo-style onslaught comes if the left does become relevant on such proposals. All policies must be backed up by economists, even just for credibility in the eyes of people. Slogans will only get us a tiny protest vote.

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HAL - April 29, 2011

+1

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Jim Monaghan - April 29, 2011

On banks, we already have 3 bankrupt banks in public ownership. Why not close down the 3 while burning the bondholders and creating a viable one based on say the post office.

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14. Jackson Way - April 29, 2011

Paddy D’s hitting the nail on the head here. SP policy is is fur coat and no knickers. We need a real socialist movement in this country with real costed and researched policy not fairy tales – SP needs to cop on.

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Paddy dingham - April 29, 2011

“SP policy is fur coat and no knickers.”

Well I wouldn’t say that. I think it’s lazy more than anything else. and the rhetoric about not propping up capitalism doesn’t excuse the fact that it is not able to explain how it is going to prop up socialism.

now it is possible to do that. It is possible to come up with viable non-capitalist economic areas of growth and development. The point is that the socialist party haven’t thought about them and haven’t got the simplest idea as to how to go about transforming Irish society except to call for nationalisation of key industries and natural resources.

Ireland, in line with the rest of the western world, is primarily a service-based economy. Are we to have nationalised call centres, giving help and advice to paypal customers, with the call centres heated with Mayo gas?

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15. HAL - April 29, 2011

A revolution has to have some transformation process its’ not good enough to proffer a year zero ideal a la pol pot so that we can all start afresh.The revolution has to be about changing peoples perspectives,shifting societies values,indeed building a society and one that cares.Its minds that need to be revolutionised.

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revolutionaryprogramme - April 29, 2011

Surely the primary concern of the new organisation is about organising the workers’ movement in the fight back against the attacks in the direction of workers’ council type organisatons. It is these organisations that are essential both in terms of that immediate fight against the attacks and for the longer term aim of a socialist transformation of society.

The question of “costings” is a difficult one as we want to be careful about getting sucked into a reformist approach of giving advice on how capitalism might be made to work better.

The reality is that we have very little idea what resources will be available to a workers’ government – what is key is which class is ruling and making the decisions. It is also unlikely that a socialist transformation will occur in Ireland independent of mass socialist movements arising across Europe which will also directly affect the decisions an Irish Workers’ Republic would be able to make, in either a negative or positive sense.

In my opinion our immediate demands should therefore mainly be about expressing what working people need, not what is “reasonable” or “practical” under capitalism and designed to expose the inability/refusal of the capitalists to meet those needs of working people.

When confronted with the “how will you pay” arguments we should say by expropriating the capitalist economy. We want a new society where working people make the decisions.

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Paddy dingham - April 29, 2011

“The question of “costings” is a difficult one as we want to be careful about getting sucked into a reformist approach of giving advice on how capitalism might be made to work better.”

Well again this is about credibility. you’re not talking to your comrades here, but ordinary working people, and if you walk into the dormer estates of Drogheda and Carlow with that as your main point, you’ll have the door shut on you.

The biggest successes for the ULA, Clare Daly and Joan Collins, came about through years of grassroots activism, in effect, good old-fashioned clientism.

Was that reformist? Irish clientism as a means to getting elected? Campaigning to keep swimming pools open? Bin-charges? Non-reformist agenda?

In fact, the very idea of standing for elections and engaging with capitalist democracy – how is that not reformist?

It appears that the argument about not getting sucked into a reformist agenda is an excuse for not wanting to engage with the mechanisms of the Irish economy. In other words, it’s an attempt to try to turn ignorance into a principle.

Now, you can argue all you want about how it’s really about avoiding ‘propping up capitalism’ but most working class people will see through that and that is going to affect your attempts to build a wider movement. It would work in middle class areas, as the middle class love all that stuff, but in working class areas, they’ll see it as bullshit.

Also, on your flank, you’ll have Sinn Fein and Pearse Doherty, making highly credible economic arguments while the ULA will be talking about how it is not its job to reform capitalism ,but it is its job to do something about the local libraries and swimming pools.

It’s simply not credible.

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Mark P - April 29, 2011

Ah, them horny handed sons of toil have no truck with your high falutin’ talk of transforming society. They see right through that middle class chatter.

What we need are “credible”, “costed” plans for minor reforms of the sort Sinn Fein are currently peddling. Well in the South at least. A slightly nicer capitalism will also magically be a more efficient capitalism! Slightly less savage cuts will lead to slightly more economic growth!

I think perhaps that a quick crash course on things like the distinction between advocating a reform and reformism, the meaning of the term clientelism, and the use of parliament by revolutionaries might be in order for you Paddy. Or would that constitute middle class book learning that real workers have no time for?

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Paddy dingham - April 29, 2011

“What we need are “credible”, “costed” plans for minor reforms of the sort Sinn Fein are currently peddling”

As opposed to major revolutionary acts such as bin charges and swimming pools?

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Paddy dingham - April 29, 2011

Lenin (1902) What is to the done?

Socialist Party (2011) What is to be Done about the Water Charges?

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revolutionaryprogramme - April 29, 2011

In response to your question “In fact, the very idea of standing for elections and engaging with capitalist democracy – how is that not reformist?” – whether or not that is reformist depends on the political message being presented in the elections and from the platform of parliament.

The trick of revolutionary socialist politics is to be able to marry the fight for specific reforms without getting sucked into an overall reformist approach.

Regarding the question of “credibility” and “having the door shut on us” it seems this is just a justification for limiting our politics to what is acceptable rather than what we understand to be true and necessary. Combined with the idea that working class people are unwilling/unable to appreciate a socialist message this all sounds rather patronising.

Of course there is a social reality that revoltuionary socialist ideas are not widely held at the moment but if we really want to see a socialist transformation of society then surely our job is to change that so these ideas become widely held.

I think that will come through a combination of consistently presenting those ideas in a way that engages with the current consciousness of militant workers and being at the forefront of the fight back of working people against the attacks of the bosses and their government. Building our own working class organisations which give confidence to working people in the idea that a fundamental transformation of society is both possible and necessary.

In the course of that fight back we will get the chance to test out in practice whether or not it is Sinn Fein’s social democratic reformism or revolutionary socialist politics that is “highly credible”.

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Paddy dingham - April 29, 2011

Lenin (1899) The Development of Capitalism in Russia

United Socialist Alliance (2011) The Redevelopment of the Swimming Pool in Dún Laoghaire

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Mark P - April 29, 2011

Moderately witty, Paddy. How delightfully unexpected from a Provo.

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Paddy dingham - April 29, 2011

@ Revolutionary Programme

“it seems this is just a justification for limiting our politics to what is acceptable rather than what we understand to be true and necessary. Combined with the idea that working class people are unwilling/unable to appreciate a socialist message this all sounds rather patronising.”

I don’t think it’s patronising – in fact, it’s based on what I hear from people in working class areas when the Socialists come knocking. People laugh at the use of “comrade” for example, which certain socialist party speakers used to love to use, although that seems to have been toned down a bit.

Also, the Socialist Party rarely says working class in public – it’s always working people, or if it’s Joe talking, ‘ordinary decent working people’.

so, it appears the socialist party is at least aware of the need to tone it down a bit when talking to people who don’t live and breathe socialist politics, but the inability to engage with economics at any level is just a cop-out.

Also ,where did you get the idea that putting forward an economic plan equals reforming capitalism?

Let’s say tomorrow the socialist party is in charge.

what will the economy do? How will people be employed? Will there be private enterprise at all? will it still be a wage-based economy?

If you’re not willing to discuss capitalist economics, can you at least discuss socialist economics?

I ask this because I don’t think the socialist party can do that. I don’t think they have the intellectual training to engage with the rich history of socialist and marxist economic thought and discussion outside of slogans.

You’re in charge. How will the economy operate?

surely that is your job? to explain how a socialist economy will work?

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Paddy dingham - April 29, 2011

“Moderately witty, Paddy. How delightfully unexpected from a Provo”

I am not a provo!

what a moron!

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Paddy dingham - April 29, 2011

Actually, I find that quite offensive – I engage with a discussion on the socialist party and I get accused of being akin to a pub bomber.

what a wanker.

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Mark P - April 29, 2011

Paddy, I realise that you are floundering a bit over issues like the distinction between reform and reformism, or the use of parliament by revolutionaries, or even the meaning of the word clientelism, but you’d perhaps be better advised to steer clear of slinging terms like moron around when three of the four people who’ve argued against your approach of “costed” proposals to run capitalism in a slightly nicer way are not in fact members of the Socialist Party. Even though you’ve addressed some of them as such.

The Socialist Party has no difficulty talking about capitalist economics. It does so quite regularly in its publications and you can find substantial articles on the subject on its website. What you won’t find, however, are “costed” plans of minor reforms to make capitalism fairer and more efficient. As this is apparently the only thing you will accept as evidence of an engagement with economics, you will of course only be disappointed by people who don’t share your preconceptions.

The Socialist Party does not envision itself coming to power in the near future. Only a small part of the Irish working class wants to abolish capitalism and bring about a socialist transformation of society at the moment and the Socialist Party is only interested in taking power to achieve that goal. A socialist transformation of society would entail the working class taking over the workplaces and planning production on a democratic basis and on an international scale. It is not a matter of raising 2 billion through taxes here and spending it on better services there, but otherwise remaining within your capitalist assumptions.

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Paddy dingham - April 29, 2011

I asked the socialist party members here about how the socialist party envisage the Irish economy operating under socialism – and they are incapable of explaining it at all.

The first cop-out is the socialist party is not here to prop up capitalism.

The second cop-out is that they can’t tell us what a socialist economy is going to be like as they have no real change of attaining power in the future so there’s no point discussing it.

Ignorance as a virture.

and thanks for the apology for calling me a pub bomber.

Oh wait, you didn’t.

Wanker.

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Mark P - April 29, 2011

The only ignorance on show here Paddy is your unfamiliarity with the basics of both socialist politics and manners. I’ll forgive you for the latter however, as I’ve no objection to a bit of bracing rudeness myself.

I’m amused by the way that you seem to regard “Provo” as a worse insult than “moron” or “wanker”.

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Paddy dingham - April 29, 2011

The provos were murderers you fucking idiot. you say that to my face some day and see what happens to you, you fucking coward.

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Garibaldy - April 29, 2011

Any chance that people could stick to the type of discussion we normally have here, and drop the insults?

These are important political questions, and so why lower the tone?

For myself, I wonder if any of the ULA groups would consider producing plans of state-driven industrial development as playing by capitalist rules. If not, can we expect to see such things appearing over the next few years?

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Jackson Way - April 29, 2011

Don’t know if this will appear at the end of the right comments but Paddy D hits the nail on the head again re the SP “but the inability to engage with economics at any level is just a cop-out”. I’m not going to get into a debate with Mark P, a) because I enjoy quite a lot of what he writes and b) as someone who has spent many years reading Marxists texts (that’s me I’m talking about by the way) that, include, and go well beyond the Russian classics I just couldn’t stomach the patronising – but if the SP want to be taken seriously get serious about economics – real genuine economics not insulting thinking socialists by releasing manifestos that run to all of four pages (as with the recent ULA effort) – I really, really want progressive change is this country not sloganeering that makes the shouter feel happier – so please SPers get real (and I mean Marxist real) on economics and let’s build a real movement.

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revolutionaryprogramme - April 29, 2011

Paddy,

I’m all for using appropriate language, just so long as the political content of the message isn’t toned down as a result.

It will be a planned economy with decisions on allocation of resources and what is produced made by workers’ council type organisations of mass participatory democracy. The economy will be based on meeting peoples needs rather than maximising profit as at present.

The exact details of what that will involve will be the result of the decisions made by those workers’ councils but for my own part I would answer your specific questions something like the following:

All the major productive forces will be nationalised under the control of the workers’ council government. People would remain employed in these nationalised enterprises with the difference being that they would be actively involved in the running of them through their workplace councils.

Small businesses, including those of farmers and fishermen, would not be nationalised. The workers’ council government would provide economic incentives for these small units to voluntarily collectivise.

In the initial post-revolutionary period people would be paid wages. It is unclear to me how long before the transition to a non-wage economy – “from each according to their ability, to each according to the need” – will take as society moves onto the higher stage of communism but that is certainly the aim.

It is probably worth clarifying that I am not a member of the Socialist Party so the above should not be taken as representing their views in any way though I expect there is some degree of overlap.

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Mark P - April 29, 2011

Have you considered Pepto-bismol?

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Paddy dingham - April 29, 2011

It seems to me you are having one of your normal discussions, garibaldy.

It’s pretty obvious why as well.

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Mark P - April 29, 2011

Jackson Way said:
“I’m not going to get into a debate with Mark P, a) because I enjoy quite a lot of what he writes andb) as someone who has spent many years reading Marxists texts (that’s me I’m talking about by the way) that, include, and go well beyond the Russian classics I just couldn’t stomach the patronising”

I think you’ll find, sonny, that the phrase you were looking for was “I couldn’t handle the condescension“.

(Thank you, I’ll be here all week, etc etc)

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revolutionaryprogramme - April 29, 2011

LOL!

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Garibaldy - April 29, 2011

I’m not really sure what you mean in your comment to me Paddy. As I’ve said, I think you’re raising extremely important questions. It is in my view important that socialists provide practical plans to increase employment, and that the aim of those plans is to increase the role of the state within the economy with the long-term aim of the transformation to socialism.

All that I have asked is that everyone commenting on this thread bears in mind the moderation policy, which aims to keep the level of debate here civil, and on topic.

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Paddy dingham - April 29, 2011

I did it on topic, and have tried since, but your trolls insist on name-calling.

and the moment I went back to raising pertinent points, another one of your trolls brought back the name-calling – that apparently it is me who thinks the provos are murders and not the cedarlounge commentariat!

This site is a joke.

good luck with calling for the nationalization of industries which don’t exist.

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Garibaldy - April 29, 2011

It’s a shame you feel the site is a joke Paddy, presumably on the basis of some comments made by people who read it. The site tries to provide a place where people across the left can voice their opinions and disagreements, but respectfully. Mostly that is the case.

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16. revolutionaryprogramme - April 29, 2011

Its not just the SP & SWP who will be part of the mix in terms of the development of the programme of the new workers’ party – http://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/for-a-revolutionary-socialist-programme-2/ – and hopefully there will be many more contributions.

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17. Another interesting discussion on Cedar Lounge « revolutionaryprogramme - April 29, 2011

[...] http://cedarlounge.wordpress.com/2011/04/28/building-the-ula LikeBe the first to like this post. [...]

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18. Jim Monaghan - April 29, 2011

I attended the local PbP in Dun Laoghaire. I had missed the ULA meeting proper.
Attendance I was told lower than usual about 15 to 20.
It was all about campaigns, well mostly.
Campaign against the ending of the joint agreements, leaflets to be distributed.Contacts to be made with relevant Trade Unions.
campaign against the privatisation of the harbour.
Proposed intervention by the TD on harassment of people on dole.( this was the only parliamentary thing and intended to highlight the issue rather than an illusion in the Dail).
The question of a substitute on the council arose.
These are not minutes so I may have missed something. I report it as a witness to a campaigning body which does not rely on council or Dail representation but regards it as an adjunct to campaigns in all sectors.
My own feeling is that if you want to resist the onslaught in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown then this and hopefully ULA when it replaces it is where the action is.

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19. Paddy dingham - April 29, 2011

@ revolutionary programme

“All the major productive forces will be nationalised under the control of the workers’ council government.”

Well what are the major productive forces in Ireland?

We’re into post-fordist capitalism. finance is no longer an adjunct of industrial capitalism, it has replaced it. That fact is at the core of the present crisis.

The nature of capitalism in USA, EU, UK, has changed since the 1970s.

It’s not a case of having to nationalize the productive sector, as the productive sector is, to all intents and purposes, overseas.

Ireland exists on a diet of financial services and shops, with phara-chemicals shipped in, processed, and shipped back out again.

where is the engagement with this reality?

what is there to nationalize?

This is what i mean by empty slogans.

There has to be an engagement with the changes necessary for a post-capitalist economy.

when you talk about workers councils, are you talking about the call centre workers for google and ebay, paypal and vodafone, organising their work on socialist principles?

Factory work makes up less than 12 per cent of employment.

It is not enough to say, nationalize all industries, as the economy is not industrial.

The lack of engagement with the economic reality of Ireland today leads to such assumptions as a call for nationalization and workers councils as a panacea for all capitalist ills.

Tesco is the biggest single employer in reland outside of the government.

How do you nationalize Tesco? how will workers councils run Tesco?

There needs to be a fundamental change in the nature of the economy. It can’t just be nationalised.

This is where the discussion needs to take place.

Or… you could just ignore all of that and call people you’ve never met, you don’t know, provos.

you enter into a discussion on socialist economics, and you get called a murderer.

This is a great little site, isn’t it?

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CMK - April 29, 2011

What do you suggest, then? If workers councils won’t or can’t work, in your view, what replaces them? Or do we just carry on regardless with capitalism and accept neo-liberal serfdom?

There are several areas where a worker’s controlled nationalised sector could be a viable proposal.

One option is to keep all the semi-states in public ownership and replace their boards with a workers council – that covers a significant structural element of the economy.

There could be a new semi-state developed to process and enhance the renewable energy sector. Instead of having the current mish-mash of private sector subsidy junkies. In tandem with that, a personal preference here, we should seriously consider developing a nuclear industry here to make up the shortfall between fossil fuels and renewables.

A state run biotechnology/pharmaceutical/medical research complex could be developed which would carry out advanced research with the possibility of moving production of any discoveries to state factories here – there already exists a highly developed state funded research sector as well as the critical human infrastructure in the multi-national sector, which could make this a viable option if the latter ever folded, something that looks likely in the medium term.

There exists the fisheries sector and food processing both of which could be massively developed once the supertrawlers and the ranchers have been broken.

Yes, the financial services sector is a massive structural element in the Irish economy, but recognising that fact should not meant predicating all future economic policies on what has proved to be an exceptionally volatile and destructive economic sector.

Add to the above, the implementation of a maximum working week of 30-32 hours and get rid of a situation where you have cleaners working 48 hours a week, for instance. Guaranteed income levels and a maximum wages to both put a clear floor under consumer spending and ensuring a healthy tax take.

How to fund it, a tricky one, granted. Obviously the Corrib Field could be one place to start, another could be the 1.2 trillion of Irish owned assets that the CSO estimated to be held abroad by Irish citizens and institutions at the end of 2009.

There’s no need to accept the idea that a socialist economy automatically entails a basket case – something which you seem to premise your arguments on, Paddy.

These are just few places where this debate could start from.

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Mark P - April 29, 2011

CMK,

I broadly agree with you but there is also the further point that socialism is by its very nature an international system. An isolated socialist Ireland isn’t very likely, but it’s important to realise that it also wouldn’t have much in the way of long term viability.

When he’s not telling everyone to fuck off, Paddy is correct that there have been significant changes in the Irish economy and in the international economy. At no point was socialism on one island a long term proposition, but those structural changes mean that international coordination would be more pressing than ever.

It’s also worth noting, that there is indeed a need for more detailed and rigorous studies of Irish political economy from a Marxist perspective. The Irish Marxist left has been very small by international standards and has been faced with disproportionate activist burdens and there is a lot of intellectual heavy lifting still to be done. In that regard, I’m looking forward to Conor McCabe’s book, which will hopefully provide a step forward and a springboard for further work.

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Garibaldy - April 29, 2011

Can we expect the ULA groups to use the additional resources provided by Dáil membership to devote more efforts to political economy and economic plans? I certainly hope so.

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Mark P - April 29, 2011

Garibaldy,

Unfortunately, I’m not in a position to commit the ULA to spending money in accordance with my whims. What to do with the sudden burst of financial resources will be something the ULA will be discussing amongst many other things over the next period.

I’m certainly of the view that significant amounts of work on political economy remains to be done and hopefully a larger and better resourced socialist left will be able to make progress on that score.

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CMK - April 29, 2011

Mark P,

I agree that a vision of Ireland as a solitary socialist state in Europe is a mirage given the degree economic interconnection and integration at the global level. However, what has irked me about some of the contributions here is the implicit stance that ALL socialist economic policies are prima facie invalid, impracticable and unimplementable given the current state of global capitalist development.

Political economy should be to the forefront of ULA economic analysis, and it should, in my view, articulate explicit socialist positions (public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy as one principle).

We have to start somewhere and I think an economy policy platform that enshrines a right to work, for instance, would resonant among workers to far greater extent than the ‘costed’ policies of Labour and the rest of them.

Finally, material and political conditions in other jurisdictions are matching those taking place here, advances for a political socialist movement here would provide support and succour to others elsewhere. Likewise were some socialist economy policies to be implemented here, it is likely there would analogues elsewhere.

And, yes, I’m looking forward to Conor McCabe’s book.

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revolutionaryprogramme - April 29, 2011

I’d respond to your points by referring back to my earlier comment about it being unlikely that a socialist transformation will occur in Ireland independent of mass socialist movements arising across Europe. This will directly affect the decisions an Irish Workers’ Republic will make, in either a negative or positive sense, regarding the economy.

You might well be right about the need to reorganise the economy in Ireland as a component part of a Socialist Federation of Europe or in response to outside intervention by international capital if Ireland was one of the first countries to go socialist. But it is absurd to say that it is necessary right now to have all the answers to these unknown questions and if we don’t we may as well not bother at all – which seems to be the “logic” of your argument.

As I have also previously stated I believe the main task for revolutionary socialists is organising the working class in workers’ council type organisations of mass participatory democracy to fight back against the current attacks and go on to overthrow the whole rotten capitalist system. What I am concerned about is the question of power and which class makes the decisions and what social purpose the economy serves rather than the exact details of how our class in power will deal with all the details.

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20. Ed W - April 29, 2011

Paddy, if I’m not mistaken, this is why somebody assumed you were a supporter of Sinn Fein (hence “Provo” – I don’t think they assumed that you were an active member of the Provisional IRA in the past):

“on your flank, you’ll have Sinn Fein and Pearse Doherty, making highly credible economic arguments while the ULA will be talking about how it is not its job to reform capitalism ,but it is its job to do something about the local libraries and swimming pools.”

It wasn’t an unreasonable assumption to make.

Nobody called you a murderer – the only person making that inference here is you. In general, I would say that people who follow this site might be critical of Sinn Fein, but they don’t consider them to be a gang of murderers, which you apparently do.

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Paddy dingham - April 29, 2011

Oh fuck off.

Provos stands for the provisional IRA. you can save your college debating crap for your friends.

Pearse Doherty has been highly credible in the mainstream, with people such as Shane Ross, Brian Lucey, David Mcwilliams and Ben Dunne (!) all praising his analysis, which in turns gives him a level of credability in the mainstream.

Are they all provos now as well?

Mark P called me a provo as a fucking insult, right?

and now you’re defending that so you can go fuck yourself too.

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revolutionaryprogramme - April 29, 2011

“Pearse Doherty has been highly credible in the mainstream, with people such as Shane Ross, Brian Lucey, David Mcwilliams and Ben Dunne (!) all praising his analysis, which in turns gives him a level of credability in the mainstream.”

Which also completely undermines his credibility as an advocate of fundamental change in the interests of working people…

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Paddy dingham - April 29, 2011

@ Revolutionary programme.

I’ll leave after this point, but just to reply to rev. pro, who has been nothing but civil here.

My point is that he has credibility in the eyes of working people. And certainly david mcwilliams praising him goes a long way towards that as mcwilliams is very highly regarded. He shouldn’t be, but he is.

I’m not saying that doherty is revolutionary – he isn’t – but he’s on your flank, and vague calls about propping up capitalism aint going to change that.

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revolutionaryprogramme - April 29, 2011

I don’t dispute that Sinn Fein have a degree of credibility among some sections of the working class and this is a political problem for revolutionary socialists. Just as the credibility that other sections of the working class give to the Labour Party or Fianna Fail or Fine Gale are political problems. It is something we need to change.

I repeat my earlier comment that I think that changing this will come through a combination of consistently presenting our ideas in a way that engages with the current consciousness of militant workers (as per http://www.bolshevik.org/Leaflets/Irish_crisis_09.html) and being at the forefront of the fight back of working people against the attacks of the bosses and their government. Building our own working class organisations which give confidence to working people in the idea that a fundamental transformation of society is both possible and necessary.

In the course of that fight back we will get the chance to test out in practice whether or not it is Sinn Fein’s social democratic reformism or revolutionary socialist politics that is “highly credible”.

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Paddy dingham - April 29, 2011

as for this:

“I would say that people who follow this site might be critical of Sinn Fein, but they don’t consider them to be a gang of murderers…”

Oh right. So the workers party doesn’t consider sinn Fein as a bunch of murderers?

Get real.

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21. Paddy dingham - April 29, 2011

Just on Ed W bringing up the name-calling after I had gone back to having a discussion with revolutionary programme. it’s clear that the trolls are not going to allow a discussion on the type of things necessary to create a viable non-capitalist integrated and creative economy.

Good luck with the rest of your discussion.

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LeftAtTheCross - April 29, 2011

Paddy,

“Provos” is lazy shorthand for SF as a political entity on the broad Left as much as it is for the PIRA as a militarist gang of catholic nationalists. Just as “Stalinist” is lazt shorthand for WP/CP, “Trot” for SP/SWP etc etc. No point in getting annoyed about it.

Moving back away from the prejudices, the discussion on the ULA is worthwhile and doesn’t benefit from personal attacks on any contributor.

Good thread apart from that.

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22. Ed W - April 29, 2011

Lovely stuff Paddy, you’re really doing yourself a whole lot of credit there. I can’t speak for the Workers Party, I would be surprised to hear them describe Sinn Fein as nothing but a gang of murderers, but even if they did, WP members are a minority of the people who follow this site, so the point stands. Sorry to trouble you with this “college debating crap”, or “facts” as I prefer to call them. Now by all means tell me to fuck off a few more times, get it off your chest.

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23. Ed W - April 29, 2011

No Paddy, this would be you “bringing up the name-calling” yourself:

“Or… you could just ignore all of that and call people you’ve never met, you don’t know, provos.

you enter into a discussion on socialist economics, and you get called a murderer.

This is a great little site, isn’t it?”

I was trying to explain that nobody, not Mark P nor anyone else, had called you a murderer or anything of the sort, and put that irrelevant distraction to rest. And that brought out another burst of swearing. Honestly Paddy, if you could just park the persecution complex for a little while …

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24. Jim Monaghan - April 29, 2011

There was I thinking that we could have a debate about the way forward for the ULA.I would prefer if name calling was left aside. Whether we like it or not some will draw conclusions from what we write. In many cases wrong. That is life especially if you use a pseudonym. And given that it can be unwise to reveal an identity, that is fairly common.
There are problems with the ULA project. It comes into life with baggage. That is the nature of reality. I am reminded of the answer someone gave when asked for directions. “I would not start from here if I was going there”.
I feel strongly it should organise in the North.We will have to debate it and I hope that we will reach a consensus on it.I think socialism in one country is impossible, so we need to think of social transformation across Europe at a minimum, but this does not mean waiting.Exemplary struggles inspire (Easter 1916 definitly had an antiwar effect across Europe) I think what goes for left economics is warmed up Keynes. In reality impossible in a small and especially open economy like Ireland.But this does not mean accepting the cuts. For a start there are many layers in Irish society who can and should pay more (need I say our incredibly well paid judges and senior bureaucrats for a start). Kieran Allen and Conor McCabe have written fairly serious stuff. Good starting point.
Taking back the unions is an arena of struggle. There are some initiatives there and I think ULA can give it bite.
The election was a breakthrough. Was there a slogan somewhere called “much done, more to do”. Maybe we can borrow it.

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25. Fight the cuts - April 29, 2011

I’m glad professionalism and a more thorough grasp of economics has entered the debate. It is absolutely vital.

Mark P you replied with a rather flippant remark here ”What we need are “credible”, “costed” plans for minor reforms of the sort Sinn Fein are currently peddling. Well in the South at least. A slightly nicer capitalism will also magically be a more efficient capitalism! Slightly less savage cuts will lead to slightly more economic growth!’

No-one is arguing for a ‘slightly nicer capitalism’. SF are indeed doing that and doing it remarkably well too, because through Doherty and having costed plans, SF are shedding the ‘economic illiterates’ tag they also were lumbered with. What I am saying is that the left also needs to back up their slogans with cold, hard facts. Their proposals need to be costed, otherwise it is just fantasy and will lack credibility. Why would one possibly call for an increase in corp tax for example, when you don’t even know what it would bring in etc

But for even more radical changes like having one state back ‘democratically controlled’…the left needs to know how it would work practically, how it would be funded and it’s relationship with the international markets etc otherwise it is just a slogan and as I said, the left will only ever pick up a minor protest vote.

This is not about a nicer capitalism, if you are calling for radical change you are gambling with peoples lives..unless of course, your plans are well thought out, developed and costed. The left needs economic advisers and needs to develop itself as a party. There’s plenty of talent among the left in Ireland, what is needed is them all under the one umbrella

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DublinDilettante - April 29, 2011

SF are indeed doing that and doing it remarkably well too, because through Doherty and having costed plans, SF are shedding the ‘economic illiterates’ tag they also were lumbered with.

Lumbered with by whom, though? Bit of leftist inferiority complex in this sentiment, if you don’t mind my saying so. Do you really think that if the ULA produced a fully costed manifesto which proved conclusively the superiority of collective enterprise and a planned economy to the market model, that the Indo would print an editorial saying “fair cop, you were right all along?”

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LeftAtTheCross - April 29, 2011

Unlikely, but it’s not sufficient reason to avoid engaging with the public on the issue.

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shea - May 1, 2011

doubht the independent would print the fully costed plan but do they do that for FF or FG either. but ula politicians could quote examples from a fully costed which would be picked up and use it as part of a propaganda campaign.

think its something the shinners did well in the run up to the election bit of a backslide during it i admit but have to give others credit for a good counter campaign. maybe the content wasn’t as stong as some would want. fair enough but the mechanics from a propaganda point of view, gave the fount of camera people points to argue. otherwise your relying on carisma and joe and richard and joan have that but how far can you go with that.

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revolutionaryprogramme - April 29, 2011

If it isn’t about arguing for a reform of capitalism then I don’t see how it is possible to come up with “costed” plans.

We simply don’t know, and indeed can’t know, what resources an Irish Workers Republic would have at its disposal – there are far too many unknowns.

What is far more important than trying to come up with detailed economic plans for how the future socialist society will be organised is the question of power – who rules society and in whose interests.

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Jackson Way - April 29, 2011

No you just can’t build Utopia and point at it – you need to show realistically how you would turn around a globalised, shit heap of a gombeen economy to one that could become a socialist one – it will be very, very difficult to do but life isn’t easy.

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revolutionaryprogramme - April 29, 2011

I actually don’t think it is that hard to show that socialism would result in a huge increase in living standards for working people.

By planning the economy to meet human needs without the capitalists stealing a significant portion as their “profits”; by using the vast waste of scientific and productive capacity that currently goes into the arms industry in the interests of improving peoples lives instead of destruction; and last, but by no means least, by using in a productive way the massive waste in human potential of the billions who currently spend most of their time merely struggling to survive.

But I still believe that the key is getting working people to believe that it is possible for our class to run society in a new way and being prepared to fight to make that happen.

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CMK - April 29, 2011

‘Fight the Cuts’ – they’re sensible points, but I think you should re-assess your over-reliance on ‘economic literacy’. The latter concept includes in this state the utterly contradictory belief that you can impose swingeing cuts in workers’ wages without affecting aggreggate demand. Just look at the coverage every time there’s another drop in consumer demand; no connection is made to wage cuts.

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LeftAtTheCross - April 29, 2011

CMK, are you not confusing what passes as the accepted orthodox analysis, i.e. the conclusions reached by the process of analysis from a particular ideological perspective, with the economic tools used in the process of analysis itself. It’s like saying that language is useless because someone uses it for a particular purpose which you don’t like. Economic literacy & numeracy can be and should be used by the Left to counter the ideological hi-jacking of the process by the orthodoxy, to build a convincing alternative narrative with which to win hearts and minds.

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CMK - April 29, 2011

That’s a useful analysis, LATC. However, I would argue that from the perspective of the orthodoxy anyone seeking to argue outside of it, particularly on economic matters, is de facto making a declaration of ‘economic illiteracy’. I suppose the orthodoxy is so narrow here, and so tightly policed and rigourously enforced, that a wide range of respectable and credible left-wing economic ideas just won’t get a fair hearing, ever. For instance, public ownership of the semi-states has served this society well for nearly 80 years, and yet the orthodoxy will only ever whinge about high prices rather than broader contribution they have made to social and economic cohesion.

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LeftAtTheCross - April 29, 2011

CMK, yes I agree with what you’re saying about the ideological narrowness of the orthodox analysis, but the point remains that by using the very same economic tools that they use, but with a different ideological flavouring, many counter arguments can be made to their conclusions. The example you chose yourself there, of the economic benefit to the state of profit dividends to the exchequer from commercial semi-state enterprises is one such example. The main point that we have to move beyond predictable ideologically driven sloganeering if we are going to convince people of the validity and realism of our alternative vision of the economy and society. So it’s not about the widely held wisdom of conclusions which are promoted by teh Right and parroted by the media, it’s about the process of analysis, and turning the analysis against the orthodoxy. They mightn’t like the alternative conclusions produced by teh Left, but they can’t discredit the process if it’s the same methodology they use, and in engaging in this type of literate argument we win the prize of separating ideology from fact, and undermine their TINA argument.

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Pope Epopt - April 29, 2011

I take your point about credibility, but only up to a point, LATC.

At that point, we can and should credibly point to evidence that standard neo-classical economics doesn’t work, is demonstrably wrong, and that models based on it should be disregarded. If you don’t, then you are playing by the rules of a game that is founded on a number of quasi-religious myths about anything from how complex systems work to human culture and nature.

Once you accept their premises you have already lost, if your purpose is a better world.

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LeftAtTheCross - April 29, 2011

Pope, yeah, I don’t disagree with you, I’m just making the argument for using suitable weapons at different stages in the war. Where we’re at now, well the terrain is defined by those neo-classical economic models, so to get from here to where we want to be we have to win the hearts and minds using the tools at our disposal, and slogans just don’t cut it.

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CL - April 30, 2011

The notion that economic analysis can be separated from ideology is nonsense.
Orthodox economic policy as embodied in the IMF/EU MOU,-privatisation, fiscal austerity,’liberalisation’ of the labour market,-is the essence of neoliberal ideology.
The ideological hegemony of neoliberalism is greatly to blame for the deepening crisis, yet the orthodox response is to call for more of the same.
This political and intellectual bankruptcy is an opportunity for the left, and a failure of the left raises the spectre of barbarism.

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LeftAtTheCross - May 6, 2011

“The notion that economic analysis can be separated from ideology is nonsense.”

CL, Conor McCabe has just posted this on Dublin Opinion which links to the “Heterodox Economics Newsletter” and points to the existance of an anti-orthodox body of opinion within the discpline of economics.

Simply to agree with your point that economic analysis and ideology cannot be separated, but to disagree that only orthodox analysis is possible or exists.

http://dublinopinion.com/2011/05/06/an-appeal-from-teachers-and-researchers-of-economics/

Also

http://heterodoxnews.com/directory/intro.htm

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26. john O'Neill - April 29, 2011

i want to know more about joining the ULA.How do you join? how much does it cost? Who holds the membership lists? The SWP, SP, The Parliamentary Representatives, or a power sharing committee? If I am a member of the ISN can I still join? Can the ISN join? If I already pay subs to the ISN do I have to pay subs to the ULA?

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DublinDilettante - April 29, 2011

I don’t think anyone’s worked that out yet, John, but I suspect the answers are: Sign an application form, about a tenner if you’re working, a joint committee, of course, yes (if they want) and probably not.

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revolutionaryprogramme - April 29, 2011

Based on how it seems to be working in Cork, though we haven’t had the first branch meeting yet…

If you can’t make it to one of the ULA “membership drive” meetings then you can contact them though the web site

It is €10 for waged, €5 for unwaged.

Reps from SP & SWP are getting a copy of the membership list – not sure if that is as members of the interim steering committee or an org-to-org thing

Anyone can join, irrespective of their membership of another left organsiation

I don’t know about organisational affiliations

Subs that you pay to other left organisations are your own business but you still have to pay the ULA sub, at least that is what I presume SPers who joined up the other night were doing

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27. Fight the cuts - April 29, 2011

”If it isn’t about arguing for a reform of capitalism then I don’t see how it is possible to come up with “costed” plans.

We simply don’t know, and indeed can’t know, what resources an Irish Workers Republic would have at its disposal – there are far too many unknowns.”

And you expect people on the breadline with a mortgage to pin their hopes on unknowns?

When we are talking about costing here, we are talking about being professional. Why call for a state bank, if all you have to back it up is the slogan itself? Slogans only get you so far, you need credible economics, not fantasy.

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revolutionaryprogramme - April 29, 2011

I’m not calling for a state bank myself. I think that is just reformism as it is predicated on the continuation of the capitalist system.

I am calling for the working class to take power and expropriate the capitalist class. I truly believe this is the only real answer to our problems as working people.

Do you really think that the times in history when mass movements of the working class posed the question of power it was because a
“credible economic plan” had been put forward?

No, it was when the mass of working people had gained enough confidence from their battles in the class struggle to realise that it was possible to overthrow the rotten capitalist system and replace it with something new.

Yes it was “unknown”, but it was an “unknown” based on our class becoming the ruling class and building a new society where we make the decisions based on our needs and wants.

This is the vision and hope that the new workers’ party needs to provide. Not abstract economic plans but confidence in our ability as a class to fight and win, not just against the immediate attacks but against this whole filthy system.

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28. Jim Monaghan - April 29, 2011

“And you expect people on the breadline with a mortgage to pin their hopes on unknowns?”
Those who believed the lies of FG and Labour are going to be seriously disillusioned.On Gilmore’s political grave should be written the slogan “Labours way, not Frankfurts way”. What a deceit.Even the hapless (social democratic probably too strong a label) Burton was swept aside.Look at Greece. No improvement in the underlying problem , in spite of cuts. It just keeps getting worse.A Lenihan would blame those “talking down the economy”. I think most of us want the truth not lies.
Given what has happened over the last 4 years, ULA is not the only ones who have got it wrong, if they did.. I would take the predictions of the crisis and the solutions of Kieran Allen and Conor McCabe over the orthodox nostrums of the establishment who have consistently got it wrong.
We are in the whirlwind of a world wide crisis. The American deficit is huge and their economy and military are overstretched. This is why even bourgeois economists think that there may be something to Marx and his theories of periodic crises of Capitalism.
When granite paving slabs can be brought all the way from China cheaper than the costs of production here, then we have problems.It is a worldwide system, and not just since globalisation (this just accelerated a trend that is now quite old).
The bourgeois solution is quite plain. Drive down costs and thus wages and conditions. Right they dress it up with talk of a high skill economy.Look at the USA where capital has all but deserted the old economic hubs such as Detroit in favour of low cost sites within and without the USA where there are no unions to act as a brake.
Socialism is about something different, not just tinkering at the edges. It is about being honest. By honesty I mean not saying that a few bits of tinkering on the budget and all will be well.With an incredible number unemployed and our young deserting the ship if they can, everyone with half a brain knows that this is a sysmic shock to the world economy.There is no one in say Intel who thinks their jobs have more than 5 years max. security. They are not seeing what I say as scaremongering.
Do you think that people on the dole think a few months on a FAS course will give the
them sufficient skills to compete on a world stage. In education and skills we need serious investment and a root and branch reform. But this would cost and the people who run Ireland prefer to ditch the Irish poor rather than invest in them.
This crisis will probably pass and there will be another boom of sorts (which will probably bypass Ireland which is now a glorified Corsica of the European mainland).Even a government with the guts to default would still have problems, but would have a little breathing space.
Then there will be another crisis( what is the usual record, 7 years boom and 7 years bust.)This will result in more wars, about resources such as oil and water.Direct wars and wars by proxy.In a world of insecurity you can expect military spending to soar.
Am I not pessimistic?

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Pope Epopt - April 29, 2011

Pessimism is my middle name, but I suspect this crisis is different, and we can’t expect a resumption of 14 year boom/bust cyles. What’s different? Well, there’s peak oil, a collapsing financial system and delegitimation of state and corporate authority all coming to a head simultaneously.

Corsica does nicely express where Ireland is likely to find itself, however.

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anon-anon - April 30, 2011

+1

The energy predicament is fundamental, but it could be an opportunity for Socialists to redefine the entire socio-economic debate and put forward a pragmatic economic formation with resource limitation in mind that will bury capitalism once and for all.

Yet it never seems to get a look-in in Ireland.

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29. john O'Neill - April 29, 2011

Revolutionary Programme is an activist in the ULA but isn’t sure if an organisation can affiliate despite the fact that the ULA has the SWP and SP amongst others as affialiates.

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DublinDilettante - April 29, 2011

In fairness, John, this is an organisation that was formed on the hoof to contest an election and is just beginning to find its feet as a political formation. You know yourself the logistical challenges this presents with limited resources. If the ISN are interested in affiliating, putting the question to the ULA rather than CLR would seem the obvious step.

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revolutionaryprogramme - April 29, 2011

Well being a “ULA activist” doesn’t actually amount to much as yet. I’m an independent (from the SP & SWP anyway) who joined at the Cork “membership drive” meeting but I didn’t support the ULA electoral pact.

The internal structures of this new “alliance on the way to a new party” aren’t yet sorted out and to the extent that there is one it is the hangover from the electoral pact.

I would have assumed that the interim steering committee was meeting with groups like the ISN as regards affiliation but as we don’t have a functioning internal structure yet that is merely speculation on my part.

However given what has been proposed as the organisational structure by all the SP & SWP speakers I have seen at meetings I can see no reason why the ISN wouldn’t be able to affiliate.

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30. john O'Neill - April 29, 2011

I got the impression that the ULA were running around meeting groups that were likeminded. The ISN is a long time working for left cooperation/ unity.

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31. Mark P - April 29, 2011

John,

The answers to your questions are:

You can join the ULA by either filling in the form at a ULA meeting or by contacting them through the website.

It costs 10 euro for the waged.

There is an interim committee with reps from the Socialist Party, People Before Profit (from both the SWP and CIL wings), Workers and Unemployed Action Group and the Sligo group. That committee has deputed four people (I can’t remember who) to deal with the clerical stuff about membership.

If you are thinking of joining as a group it would probably be best to formally contact the ULA as a group first to arrange a meeting. I would not anticipate there being any problems with the ISN joining, but you could get any questions clarified first that way.

The 10 euro fee is not waived for members of affiliated organisations. I would anticipate the ULA setting a higher membership rate in the future, but that will be up to its members once its more firmly established.

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32. Karl - April 30, 2011

What on earth is the CIL wing of the People before Profit. Its not, of course, the armed wing !

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Joe - May 3, 2011

Karl. The CIL was the Campaign for an Independent Left. It was made up of the ISN and a bunch of independent leftists a few years back. I’m assuming from Mark P’s post that some of the independents on the CIL are now part of PBP.
I think I’ll start a campaign to stop the proliferation of TLAs!

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D_D - May 3, 2011

CIL is the rump of the Campaign for an Independent Left which now consists of a few independent members of the PBPA. It was a bit heavier than “the ISN and a bunch of independent leftists”, also comprising of the South Tipperary Workers’ and Unemployed Action Group and the Community and Workers’ Action Group in Drimnagh-Crumlin.

It’s amazing what an internet search turns up. In this case a very detailed article on CIL by Colm Breathnach from November 2005 in the British ‘Solidarity’ magazine:

http://solidaritymagazine.blogspot.com/2005/11/ireland-campaign-for-independent-left_25.html

Now what’s a TLA?

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Joe - May 3, 2011

Thanks for that fuller description of the CIL, DD.
A TLA is a… three letter acronym.

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D_D - May 3, 2011

Yes, there are too many of them, Joe, IMO too. :)

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Joe - May 5, 2011

Nice one DD. More posts that make me laugh and you’ll be my NBF.

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D_D - May 5, 2011

OMG!

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33. anon-anon - April 30, 2011

The Irish budgetary process is an instrument of class warfare.

While I’m an advocate of costing policies for mainstream political consumption, it’s a rather futile exercise in the long run. Current costing exercises, given that budgetary criteria are set to pre-defined input limitations constructed solely for the maintenance of capitalism, are mainly a tool to sequester and increase resources allocation to existing owners of said resources or the manipulation of resources, such as labour, to prop up capitalism in states where a popular vote is required to secure the existing framework of resource allocation.

If you refuse to formulate a comprehensive tax policy, and indeed undermine it for the benefit of the well-off and corporations, thereby generating insufficient tax revenue to buy patronage at the ballot box, you can only then try to shift the relative tax burdens for workers and the middle classes to affect their perceptions of how the smaller tax pool is allocated.

Costing policy is a convenience used only to shift perception and expectation in a declining state income pool. No working class person is better off, including the middle classes. Decreasing tax in-take, allied with increased state debt to make up continuous short falls in tax income due to increasing wealth distribution to the top, actually makes any existing taxes seem more onerous. If you’re not taxing the them, why tax me, and to who does the smaller tax income stream go?

Increased privitisation of public services and stealth taxes add to this perception and also help create class war as pro-rata consumption based taxes morph into increased and permanent living costs for all workers. Somehow the middle classes then come to identify that all remaining direct taxes are abused by the burgeoning working poor to stay alive. The middle class want to offset their new, increased permanent costs with a reduced tax bill. Begrudgery has been turned on its head in Ireland.

The entire budget process is merely an exercise in reducing state tax in-take absolutely or substituting it with pro-rata tax in-take to replace some of the direct taxation. However, the pro-rata taxes and increased direct costs associated with privitisation reduce the spending and borrowing power of workers, leading to job losses or poverty which, in turn, lead to reduced tax in-take over the long term. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle reinforcing our perceptions. Of course, the previous well-run government sponsored ogranisations that were a fall back for the working class will have disappeared.

While the well-off get weller offerer, the rest of us are set against each other to fight over the remaining scraps.

Reduced state income tax in-take also ties the hands of the political management class to manouvre and do anything but capitalist’s further bidding.

More importantly, costing exercises through the existing framework infers one believes there is a capitalist solution to our predicament. There isn’t.

As Pope says, by all means use any weapon at your disposal to eradicate capitalism and its largely myth based arguments. Using cost proposals to highlight capitalist inconsistency is fine, but they aren’t a solution given the existing framework.

The ULA’s task is to redefine the entire socio-economic landscape imo. This is a much larger task than mere costing exercises, and a harder sell to a thoroughly conditioned society who sees no alternatives.

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Pope Epopt - April 30, 2011

A good summary AA. Not only the socio-economic landscape needs to be redefined but the value systems underlying it.

While I’m not among those who hold SF’s move to social democracy in contempt (indeed I welcome it for a variety of reasons), social democracy was a phase of European political economy which depended on continuous growth, which itself relied upon abundant cheap fossil energy. That time is passing, and the idea of social democracy is visibly dying with it.

So the choices are the invention of a new form of eco-socialism or combination of Chinese-style authoritarian capitalism and the chaotic collapse of production and distribution systems due to energy scarcity.

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another-anon - April 30, 2011

Well how will this new economy work Pope?

Will there be private enterprise? How will new work opportunities arise as populations grow?

Will enterprises be allowed to employ people? will there be bosses?

how will health, education, imports, exports, agriculture, and infastructure develop?

Will all these areas happen spontaneously? Or will there be a plan?

If there’s a plan, what is it?

On eco-socialism, with actual products produced overseas, how will trade occur? Will it still be based on money? Will we trade products? If so, what plans do Irish socialists have to turn the type of economic production around in Ireland? I presume we will not be trading financial services in the socialist party’s future, so what will we be trading in order to get the products we need to function?

nobody here has explained how an Irish socialist economy will actually work. There have been wonderful rhetorical flourishes, paintings of utopian paradises, but nothing concrete whatsoever.

Will any of the jobs currently held by the contributors to this site continue to exist in socialist ireland? If not, what jobs/work will replace it?

With no understanding of the irish economy – except that it is run by ‘greedy bankers’ who exploit ‘ordinary decent workers’ – how will socialists know what needs to be adapted to suit the needs of the country?

how will eco-socialism work? What changes need to be undertaken to make eco-socialism a viable, self-perpetuating economy and society?

Ignorance is no virtue, my dear boys.

and trying to make out that the issue of costings somehow gets you off the hook for explaining how a socialist society will sustain and perpetuate itself is an exercise in ignorance as a virtue.

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revolutionaryprogramme - April 30, 2011

another-anon,

Any one of us can’t give cast-iron answers to your questions as the exact details will be the worked out in the course of the class struggle, both here and internationally. Indeed part of the problem with a “we must provide detailed costings” approach is that what resources will be available in the new society, particularly at the beginning is pretty much unknown, and indeed effectively unknowable.

Having said that my own understanding of the general framework of the economic and social relations of an Irish Workers’ Republic would be as follows:

It will be a planned economy with decisions on allocation of resources and what is produced made by workers’ council type organisations of mass participatory democracy. The economy will be based on meeting peoples needs rather than maximising profit as at present.

All the major productive forces will be nationalised under the control of the workers’ council government structures. People would remain employed in these nationalised enterprises with the difference being that they would be responsible for the running of them through their workplace councils.

Small businesses, including those of farmers and fishermen, would not be nationalised but the workers’ council government would provide economic incentives for these small units to voluntarily collectivise.

In the initial post-revolutionary period people would be paid wages. It is unclear to me how long before the transition to a non-wage economy – “from each according to their ability, to each according to the need” – will take as society moves onto the higher stage of communism but that is certainly the aim.

There may well be some reorganising of the economy in Ireland on the basis of “eco-socialism” as a component part of a Socialist Federation of Europe or in response to outside intervention by international capital if Ireland was one of the first countries to go socialist.

In response to the inevitable “how could all this be funded” questions by the capitalists and their media hacks I think we merely point out how much more efficiently socialism will use the resources available to society:

By planning the economy to meet human needs without the capitalists stealing a significant portion as their “profits”; by using the vast waste of scientific and productive capacity that currently goes into the arms industry in the interests of improving peoples lives instead of destruction; and last, but by no means least, by using in a productive way the massive waste in human potential of the billions who currently spend most of their time merely struggling to survive.

But I would strongly argue that presenting an economic vision should not be the main task of a new revolutionary socialist workers’ party. Rather it should be organising the working class in workers’ council type organisations of mass participatory democracy to fight back against the current attacks and which can go on to overthrow the whole rotten capitalist system. What we should be primarily concerned about is the question of power and which class makes the decisions and what social purpose the economy serves rather than the exact details of how our class in power will deal with all the specific issues.

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Jim Monaghan - April 30, 2011

I would add that some who regard themselves as well off and identify with the “winners” are due the chop.Modern capitalism has little use for what they see as a bloated middle class.The pyramid of society will be quite narrow at top and more and more will be pauperised. This is what has happened in the USA where the gains of certain parts of the workingclass have been attacked.

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34. Rock 2 Gino 1 - April 30, 2011

The new issue of lookleft has an interview with Joan Collins – some intresting quotes from her on where she see’s the ULA going and also about the hurdles it has overcome and will have to overcome includig the issue around corporation tax

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35. Mark P - April 30, 2011

It’s worth noting some of the assumptions embedded in particular questions.

“How will an Irish socialist economy work?” for instance assumes the existence of distinct national economies as under capitalism. In fact, there is no possibility of socialism on one island, socialism is an international system. “What role would Ireland play in a wider socialist economy?” is a more meaningful question.

“Why aren’t demands for reforms fully costed and presented as an alternative economic programme?” if asked from a left wing perspective carries with it the embedded assumption that left wingers can make capitalism’s sums add up better than the capitalists can. That it is possible to put forward a vision of a fairer capitalism that also, somehow, manages to balance the books better than the approaches taken by capitalist governments all within the framework of capitalism. This is a central part of social democracy as a political outlook – a kind of post-Keynesianism which assumes that a social democratic capitalism is also a more efficient capitalism. That, for instance, within the bounds of capitalism, avoiding cuts is a better way to meet budgetary difficulties than making cuts.

The problem with that assumption is that it isn’t actually true. Or at least it isn’t consistently and always true. That it isn’t reliably true is one part of the explanation of the collapse of social democracy as a political project.

The success of social democracy depended on the post war boom, an ability to keep divvying out spoils which was in turn based on an an ever expanding economy. Absent those conditions, social democracy has a very poor record in terms of arguing its case within the bounds of capitalism and has largely collapsed worldwide as a project distinct from neo-liberalism.

Then you get demands for “costed” socialist or transformative economic proposals, which is essentially asking for the abolition of capitalism to be entered into capitalism’s account books. It’s a question which is built on a terms of reference error.

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HAL - April 30, 2011

So if the ULA gets a massive majority in the next General election but the rest of world remains capitalist,what type of economic system would they implement.

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revolutionaryprogramme - April 30, 2011

Rather than taking the question of the economic system in this abstract manner it is more important to look at what this scenario would mean in terms of political rule.

If there was a massive majority for the new workers’ party in the next General Election it would be merely an indication that the workers’ councils, which would be the real power base of the party, represented the will of the majority. We would be in a situation that has been called “dual-power” in the Marxist movement.

I would therefore imagine the first step would be to resolve this situation of dual-power by dissolving the Dail and passing power to the workers’ council.

Then the question of the state would have to be resolved. Had we arrived at this situation with the workers’ councils, led by the revolutionary socialist workers’ party, having already effectively neutralised the repressive apparatus of the capitalist state? Or would there be a counter-revolutionary reaction by the capitalist state apparatus that would have to be suppressed?

And then there is the international context. While it is possible to imagine that Ireland was the first country to put the working class into power it is virtually inconceivable to imagine that this had occurred without there being mass socialist movements in existence across Europe and indeed the rest of the world.

The new Irish Workers’ Republic would face a deadly threat from the armies of European and US capital and before we could think about implementing any major economic transformation of society there would be the question of defence of the revolution and concrete solidarity from our brothers and sisters across Europe and in the US. As others have argued it is not possible to build socialism on this one island and the key issue of the day would be whether the Irish Workers’ Republic would be the spark that lit other revolutions around the world.

That being said I think it would be a basic defensive measure to remove the power base of the Irish capitalist class by expropriating the wealth and businesses of the super-rich.

Once again I will stress that despite the similarity between mine and Mark P’s recent posts I am not a member of the SP and the above should not be taken to represent their views.

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36. Jim Monaghan - April 30, 2011

If the ULA scores that well it would hardly be a circumstance unique to Ireland.Hopefully it would be part op a swing across at least Europe and open up the possibility of creating a world economic system based on using the skills and talents of people to solve the problems of the world. A contrast between that system and the current one which dooms so many people.
A sort of Peoples Way not Frankfurts and the other dens of finance capitalism way. I expect the supporters of teh current system to do their best to stymie this

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HAL - April 30, 2011

Fair enough but whats the answer to my question.

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37. Jim Monaghan - April 30, 2011

OK, you mean an Irish Cuba. Hopefully without geriatrics ruling it. We would need to cultivate the workeringclass across Europe to prevent an economic blockade. It would be difficult but I think we would get a better hearing than our ruling elite are getting from the EU/IMF. Oh I see Gilmore’s comrade Strauss-Kahn made sure that the bondholders would be paid in full.
We are integrated very much into the world system so I basically think neither 30s style protectionism or a socialist equivalent would be possible in the context of this state. It was not possible in the USSR or China.We are in a world economic system. This limits how effective change can be in a national setting. Even Chavez with oil has huge difficulties.Like Lenin I would hope that seeing that it is possible to overthrow a set of gangsters in Ireland would help spark of similar movements abroad. Tunisia sparked off an Arab revolt, still underway.This is why I welcome moves to start a joint campaign with the workers of countries currently in the eye of the storm. Alone we are weak, together we amount to something.E.G. referendums in Ireland, Greece and Portugal rejecting the dictats would at least blackmail better terms.
I would like to think that we would find oceans of oil and gas which would give some leeway. But it would still be within a world system that we operate.
Yes, I would love to set out a program where we could go our own sweet way without problems. There is no such way. I am an internationalist not because I reject the nationalism of an oppressed people but because the opposition is international and it can only be conquered internationally.Our comardes are the workers of Greece, Portugal etc. not the Martins, Kennys and so on.

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38. HAL - April 30, 2011

I agree with you about an International aspect being vital.I can be a Socialist without you being a Socialist,and I believe Ireland can be Socialist without England being Socialist.Ireland being Socialist alone would never be able to compete with world capitalism,but if we upheld Socialist values to the best of our abilities,and implemented Socialist policies in Ireland,then we could set an example to other countries to follow suit.We have to show the public our plan for transition and ability to survive.The idea of waiting for the whole world to turn Socialist together so as we can implement true Socialism is delusional.

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revolutionaryprogramme - April 30, 2011

While it would be possible to have a socialist revolution in Ireland which brought the working class to power and we began to reshape society that is a different thing from being able to complete the transition to a socialist society.

That will require the internationalisation of the socialist revolution and what is delusional is to think that Ireland, alone and surrounded by a hostile capitalist world, could complete the transition to socialism.

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39. another-anon - April 30, 2011

It seems that it is not the socialist party’s job to prop up capitalism – but neither is it its job to explain how a socialist economy will function.

what, exactly, IS its job?

It doesn’t have to explain the workings of Irish capitalism as that would involve ‘costings’ – but neither does it have to explain how socialism will work in Ireland is it is the responsibility of the entire world to turn socialist before Ireland can do the same.

Yet, even if the entire world turned socialist on Tuesday, the socialist party wouldn’t have a clue as to what that would mean in terms of the economic and social dynamics necessary to sustain a socialist society.

Well, we do have workers councils, but how workers councils will be able to sustain a socialist economy which will be coming out of a service-based economy is not explained.

what changes to the dynamics of our capitalist economy are necessary in order to have a functioning socialist economy, no idea.

The nationalisation of financial services will be a meaningless exercise as we’ll hardly be working as a tax haven by that stage, but as to what will replace that industry, the socialist party haven’t a clue.

I suppose we’ll barter with phrases, as that seems to be the extent of the socialist party’s economic analysis.

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revolutionaryprogramme - April 30, 2011

So you think there are concrete costed answers to these questions that can be arrived at now?

Well what are they then?

Or are you just raising objections to discourage working people from taking the path of militant class struggle against the current attacks and laying the basis for us taking power as a class?

This idea that it is necessary to have a completely costed and worked out alternative economy before we can pose the question of power is completely ahistorical.

When mass working class movements have posed the question of power it has been on the basis of confidence born out of successful militant class struggle and the creation of functioning organs of working class democracy which have created a situation of dual power.

Of course when we get to such a situation we will have a movement of significant size and depth with concrete experience of beginning to run society to a limited degree. As a result there will be more answers to the questions you pose.

But to make having this fully worked out plan a precondition now is just a recipe for not starting on the path at all.

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HAL - April 30, 2011

Nobody is asking for a fully worked out plan,just what plan they have at the moment ie if they got a majority.Ye see people live in the real world not a textbook world and the day after an election mortages would still have to be paid,Hospitals kept running etc,etc.So we need to know what the plan is while we wait on the rest of the world to catch up.

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another-anon - April 30, 2011

I agree with hal, nobody is asking for a ‘costing’ – indeed, the strawman of ‘costing’ is being raised by socialist party members, not anyone else.

This is about having a plan. There are structural faultlines within the irish economy. The socialist party’s solutions to those structural faultlines is to call for the abolition of capitalism worldwide and the implementation of a socialist society.

Now, what is that socialist society going to look like? What will it replace the structural faultlines with?

all that has been said here is a call for workers councils – but as has been raised already, the nature of capitalism has changed. The idea of workers councils running the IFSC is a ridiculous idea – similarily, the idea of workers councils runnning Intel is also ridiculous as Intel in Ireland is only one part of an international assembly line, with just-in-time import/export setups.

It’s one thing to call ofr a workers council in a factory in Manchester when the steel is coming from Sheffield, it’s another to call for one in Ireland when the parts are coming from Taiwan.

As for this line:

“Or are you just raising objections to discourage working people from taking the path of militant class struggle against the current attacks and laying the basis for us taking power as a class?”

Another strawman.

It appears that the socialist party’s way of dealing with questions is to call all questions part of a counter-revolutionary agenda!

so, after two days, what we have is:

it is not the socialist party’s job to prop up capitalism.

It is also not the socialist party’s job to explain how a socialist economy would operate.

any questions relating to the socialist party’s grand plan for Ireland which cannot be answered by the catechism of the socialist party, are counter-revolutionary plots.

and it is not the job of the socialist party to engage with the tactics of counter-revolutionaries.

what a bunch of loo-laas

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WorldbyStorm - April 30, 2011

But to make having this fully worked out plan a precondition now is just a recipe for not starting on the path at all.

I genuinely don’t understand why you would think that were the case – in the sense that no one here argues that a) it would be fully worked out or b) a precondition, which as both HAL and anon-anon have pointed out isn’t the case?

But more to the point, why would something less than a ‘fully worked out plan’ but more than a simple restatement of ultimate aims somehow be anathema? EDIT {I’m adding this on reflection. Surely there is a crucial distinction between aims and methods to attain them?]

Though BTW I appreciate you’re not an SP member.

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40. Captain Rock - April 30, 2011

Clare Daly interview in Hot Press also good.

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41. another-anon - April 30, 2011

I should add that is:

““Or are you just raising objections to discourage working people from taking the path of militant class struggle against the current attacks and laying the basis for us taking power as a class?””

is a strawman for the simple reason what the working class masses don’t read cedarlounge!

The vast majority of people – working class, middle class, whatever – couldn’t be bothered reading blogs for christ’s sake.

This site is for people already committed to alternatives to capitalism – alternatives that the socialist party are very thin on explaining. and it appears that this is so because they haven’t actually sat down and thought about those alternatives, merely learned off by heart the slogans.

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WorldbyStorm - April 30, 2011

I tend to your view – not least because of the realistic take on internet political activity.

But that’s a very significant point I think you make beyond that.In the word I experience in work and out of it off line I find that workers, even workers under considerable pressure on the jobs front, aren’t as activist as might be expected. Indeed they’re nowhere near it.

I’m in a reasonably engaged part of SIPTU and yet the appetite for action is zero. That’s not due to the union activists who are actually as good as one might expect them to be given the union, but not great, but due to a broader sense of TINA.

And TINA is killing us on the left. It really is. It’s generating a sort of right populism even in the working class where alternatives are dismissed out of hand even before they’re articulated.

In such a context the necessity for a more detailed plan seems to me to be hugely important, one that says to working people with rents/living expenses/mortgages etc, that there’s a clear lead on how their fears (and hopes) will be addressed in the short to medium term while still keeping our eyes on the goal of a transformation of our society.

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42. HAL - April 30, 2011

The Left has to appear confident and able to deal with this economic collapse not just condemn capitalism in all its forms.As Connolly said it doesn’t matter how long the path is,as long as its the right path.That path/struggle has to be guided by a plan,not written in stone but based on realistic objectives.Workers need to know what to expect in exchange for their vote.

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43. shane - May 1, 2011

If there was ever a serious prospect of a party being elected on that revolutionary socialist programme I suspect the first thing most people with wealth would do would be to transfer their assets abroad. The banks would collapse within hours. The country would be in ruins even before you would take power.

In a globalised economy mass expropriations might not actually “remove the power base of the Irish capitalist class”. If it really is true that a revolutionary socialist government in Ireland would set an example to other European workers then that makes your situation ever more precarious because it means there’s a greater incentive for capital abroad to give assistance to ‘counter-revolutionaries’ in Ireland (and there would be many domestic opponents of your socialist government for them to aid).

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another-anon - May 1, 2011

@ Shane

“I suspect the first thing most people with wealth would do would be to transfer their assets abroad. The banks would collapse within hours. The country would be in ruins even before you would take power.”

Oh right. Because that HASN’T been going on for the past 12 months. Did the 34 billion euro which left the Irish bank system in one month last year – October 2010 – happen because there’s a threat of revolutionary socialism taking over?

That 34 billion was only part of the 148 billion which left the Irish bank system last year.

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CMK - May 1, 2011

One of the sobering aspects of this crisis is that perhaps the most often evoked response to a socialist government – capital flight – is actually occurring as a response to attempts to save Irish capitalism and the Euro.

http://www.rte.ie/news/2011/0429/credit-business.html

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44. revolutionaryprogramme - May 1, 2011

Ok – it seems I misinterpreted what you were asking for as regards a detailed costed plan.

However I have explained how I understand a socialist economy will work in general outline – http://cedarlounge.wordpress.com/2011/04/28/building-the-ula/#comment-97264.

HAL raises the objections “Ye see people live in the real world not a textbook world and the day after an election mortages would still have to be paid” and “That path/struggle has to be guided by a plan,not written in stone but based on realistic objectives. Workers need to know what to expect in exchange for their vote.”

This treats the question in a completely abstract manner as if working people were passive actors just voting and waiting for the change to happen. But that misses the point that a socialist transformation of society, while led and initiated by a revolutionary socialist party, will be the work of the vast mass of working people themselves through the agency of workers’ council type bodies.

When we get to a stage when it is conceivable that the question of who rules society can be concretely posed these organs of working class rule will have come up with a lot of the answers to “day after” questions through the concrete experience of already carrying out some of these tasks in the context of a dual power situation.

I can understand how it must seem we are talking at cross-purposes but that is because I am not projecting a transformation of society occurring through the Dail where a passive electorate have been trained to expect this kind of “lets see your plan” approach as they know they will have no active say in the process of running society until the next election.

I propose a completely different process of social change where this question is posed and answered in a completely different way.

another-anon rejects workers’ councils as a viable option because of the domination of the Irish economy by multi-nationals and their international supply chains. “It’s one thing to call ofr a workers council in a factory in Manchester when the steel is coming from Sheffield, it’s another to call for one in Ireland when the parts are coming from Taiwan.”

Firstly it is not a question of seeing workers’ councils on an enterprise by enterprise basis but rather seeing them as a mode of running society as a whole. Yes they will exist in each enterprise but there will also be neighbourhood, city and regional councils which along with the workplace councils will be the structure by which society as a whole is organised and self-governed.

Secondly is of course the question of internationalism. These very real structural questions are the reason I personally think it is unlikely that Ireland will be one of the first countries to experience a socialist revolution. Not because it is inconceivable that these operations could be run by working people but rather that the forces of international capital will not just sit quitely by until the very point of socialist revolution but will act much sooner to prop up the rule of the local capitalists.

It is therefore also why internationalism has to be at the very core of all the politics of the new workers’ party. Not just in an abstract aspirational sense but in a very concrete sense of positively reaching out to other revolutionary socialists and actively promoting links between the wider workers’ movement across national boundaries.

I think this point on internationalism also answers Shanes concerns.

WorldbyStorm is rightly concerned about TINA and believes that working people will not become active in fighting back unless “there’s a clear lead on how their fears (and hopes) will be addressed in the short to medium term while still keeping our eyes on the goal of a transformation of our society.”

I’m sorry but I can only interpret this as a call for developing a reformist programme to present to the working class now with socialism presented as some vague aspiration for the future.

I do agree that TINA is a very real problem but it is primarily a result of 20 years of social partnership having taught the Irish working class some very bad lessons about the possible successful use of militant class struggle. This does make the task of revolutionary socialists in mobilising the working class to fight difficult as it involves the workers’ movement re-learning a lot of things but I for one am not about to adopt reformist clothing just because the task is hard.

A fightback that was based on presenting a reformist programme would be deeply flawed in my opinion as it would be based on the passive “vote them into the Dail” approach. This is counter-posed to the programme of militant class struggle based on building organs of proletarian democracy which is necessary to both fight and win against the immediate attacks and also provides the basis for the self-governing of the new society by working people. It is also inherently nationalist as it necessarily deals with things in the current context of rule by capitalist nation states – and as I have argued above internationalism has to be at the very core of our approach.

I’m told that you are all “anti-capitalists”. I understand the role of “anti-capitalists” as being to provide a guide, a path, a programme for how to get to the anti-thesis of capitalism – socialism.

Ok so you reject my perspectives (as per http://www.bolshevik.org/Leaflets/Irish_crisis_09.html), fair enough, but what are your “anti-capitalist” alternative programmes for getting to socialism?

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WorldbyStorm - May 1, 2011

I want to engage in greater detail with your thoughts than I can at this moment, it being the weekend, so I’ll do up a longer response over the next day or so. But in the interim I’d simply suggest that none of this has to be either/or.

One of the positives of the present situation is that we have for the first time in quite some while significant formations left of Labour – in the form of SF, left Indo’s and the ULA, in terms of increasing leftwardness, – who are shifting the centre of gravity.

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revolutionaryprogramme - May 1, 2011

I would agree that it is not a completely eclusive either/or situation but at the same time there is definitely a question of the weight each is given with most socialists seeming to give more emphasis to presenting a radical reformist parliamentary road to socialism than to the revolutionary alternative.

I agree with your assessment regarding the shift in the political centre of gravity and the potential this provides. I look forward to your more substantive comments.

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45. revolutionaryprogramme - May 1, 2011

Looking forward to my first public event as part of an organised ULA contingent – on the May Day march in Cork.

Happy International Workers’ Day to everyone!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:1mei.jpg

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46. May Day 2011 « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - May 1, 2011

[...] say it better than revolutionaryprogramme has here: Looking forward to my first public event as part of an organised ULA contingent – on the May [...]

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47. another-anon - May 1, 2011

From what I can gather, these are the socialisr party’s proposals for a socialist economy – taken from an online article by Paul Murphy entitled, ‘a socialist programme for economy recovery’:

1. no more bank bailouts

2. the 100,000 unemployed construction workers should be employed to build necessary and useful infrastructure – developing broadband across the country, fixing the ancient leaky water infrastructure and building schools and hospitals.

3. A 35 hour week, with no loss of pay, should be introduced, creating up to 150,000 more jobs by sharing out the work.

4. A doubling of the corporation tax rate would yield almost €4 billion extra

5. A 10% wealth tax on the multi-millionaires would yield in excess of €10 billion

6. Nationalising the gas and oil fields off the west coast of Ireland would mean the state taking ownership of resources worth over €500 billion.

7. taking the key sections of the economy – the natural resources and the major companies and factories into democratic public ownership

8. A crucial part of this plan would be the development of real wealth creating industries in public ownership, rather than having a primarily service-based economy. Through significant investment in Research & Development, a modern manufacturing base could be developed in Ireland that would provide a sustainable basis for economic growth and rising living standards.

Now, what was the problem that Socialist Party members here had with outlining the above?

The abuse from Mark P and the screams about ‘no costings!’ were for what exactly?

when you have socialist party members attacking commentators here merely for asking for what Paul Murphy provides, the moderators of the site really have to ask themselves, are they dealing with socialist party members or socialist party trolls?

At the same time, we had other commentators defending the right of socialist party members to abuse other commentators for asking for information that it seems the newly-appointed MEP for the socialist party is himself willing to provide.

you have very nasty pieces of work contributing here, hope you’re all proud of that.

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Mark P - May 1, 2011

Paddy, it would be more honest of you to stick to a single name or pseudonym when commenting here, rather than using sock puppets. It would also help your credibility were you to knock off the martyr complex whining.

What Paul is attempting to put forward above is not an alternative plan to run a capitalist economy and still less a description of how socialism would work, but an argument aimed at encouraging workers to (a) accept that the mainstream right wing narrative is not inevitable or the only option and (b) an argument for the rejection of capitalism and the creation of socialism.

Certain demands have figures attached to them, to illustrate the lies of the capitalist politicians and media that “there is no money”, that There Is No Alternative. But it certainly and quite deliberately does not constitute a “costed” economic programme.

That’s not laziness. It’s not incompetence. It’s not a failure to engage with economics. It is an entirely deliberate approach, based on a Transitional method – a programme of demands which attempt to create a bridge between the current outlook of the working class and the end goal of socialism. What Paul is presenting is a form of argument and not an economic plan in the sense you seem to be looking for.

You cannot enter the abolition of capitalism into capitalism’s account books. I cannot put it any more simply than that.

I note, as an aside, that Paddy/Another Anon has been very careful to avoid putting forward whatever it is he himself actually believes or wants for scrutiny in this discussion. He’s perfectly entitled to take that approach, but others are perfectly entitled to draw certain inferences from it.

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antie - May 1, 2011

‘You cannot enter the abolition of capitalism into capitalism’s account books. I cannot put it any more simply than that.’

I’ve been reading this with interest, and thought some interesting points were raised. Given that one of the main aim’s of socialism is to expropriate the wealth of the capitalist class, including means of production, and use them to run a new economy, it strikes me as necessary that some form of costing should be done.

For what my views are worth, which is little, the SP’s programme, along with that of the ULA, so far seems to be more or less populist in that it seeks to reflate the bubble by getting people back building again (‘Programme of Public Works’) or working in service industries. A socialist society would need an entirely new economy with plans for agricultural reform, industrial production, allocation of resources, supply and distribution of goods, as well as forms of pricing. This takes alot of thought and detailed proposals, and when I raised a similar point here before I was struck down by someone who I assume is one of your members who said that the workers should decide on the programme. This kind of approach is a cop-out. Yes, members need to be involved, but a programme needs to be far sighted and based on how a future society will organise itself economically, socially and even geographically.

To this end, some kind of report or draft plan on which took account of existing output, and laid down goals for what would be nationalised or what new industries would be planned and introduced by a workers government, plans or proposals about currency and the way the economy would be rebalanced towards sustainable and realistic levels of production and consumption, should be drafted as a matter of emergency.

Finally, it’s not enough to criticise capitalism alone, which the SP does very well I should add, and try to put forward some vague alternative based on slogans like ‘tax the rich’ or ‘we won’t pay’. You need to give concrete proposals for how your ideas work in practice, and what kind of alternative society you want. Otherwise the ULA and it’s different groups will be doomed to continue as local campaigning groups on economist issues like water-charges, which haven’t necessarily got a political angle to them.

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DublinDilettante - May 1, 2011

Antie, I would broadly agree with you on quite a few points, but would have to demur on others. Firstly, it’s not plausible to portray an anti-water charges campaign as apolitical to any meaningful extent, inextricable as any such campaign would be from questions of common ownership of natural resources, privatisation, the class basis of neoliberal taxation policy and civil disobedience. All profoundly and quintessentially political issues.

Secondly, on a minor point, quite a few people in this thread have complained of being “struck down” by Socialist Party posters. I disagree with the SP on many matters of policy and approach, but the handful of their members (2-3 regulars, really) on this site invariably engage in a comradely fashion with the many legitimate bones of contention which arise in the course of discussions, and have no involvement in the moderation of the site.

The SP are not a hegemonic force on the Irish left, or even within the ULA. Their policies, good, bad or indifferent, are not the alpha and omega of left discourse, nor do they make that claim.

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antie - May 1, 2011

DD, I accept your point about the SP not being hegemonic on the left- quite a few of my points were aimed at the programme of the ULA, which I failed to make clear looking back on my original. Equally my point about an experience with a poster who I said I ‘assumed’, possibly incorrectly, of being an SP member, is nothing more than that, a personal experience with one poster- it’s no reflection on the SP as a whole or it’s members who post here, who I can’t say I know.

As for water charges, I have to disagree. It’s not a far leap to see people in the upper economic tiers of society opposed to them on the basis of double taxation, which is a keystone of the ULA and left in general when it comes to water charges. As an issue of general taxation, it is not an exclusively working class concern, although it is a retrograde step.

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DublinDilettante - May 1, 2011

The sad fact is that no taxation measure will survive opposition from the upper economic tiers. Even if it did, they wouldn’t be the ones manning the barricades (well, obstructing the meter installation.) If water charges are introduced, they will be directly targeted at the working class and can only be effectually opposed by the working class. Any campaign against them will, if marshalled correctly, carry a strong class emphasis.

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antie - May 1, 2011

That’s assuming communities can be mobilised on this issue. I’ve been to meetings on the issue attended by literally 2 non-activists from local communities- there doesn’t seem to be much of an appetite for a fight. Reflective of the low mood I spose, but not a good augury for the prospects of any campaign.

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DublinDilettante - May 1, 2011

Well, it’s not a reality yet, and it’s not an indirect, passive attack like levies and social welfare cuts. They’re going to have to physically enter people’s homes to enact this.

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revolutionaryprogramme - May 2, 2011

Mark,

Seems we have been arguing along similar lines recently in this thread but I’m afraid we part company over this article – http://www.socialistparty.net/economy/620-a-socialist-programme-for-economic-recovery-

It clearly presents itself as what the title suggests “a programme for economic recovery” – within the capitalist framework.

Socialism is presented as some future development and the relationship between this “programme for economic recovery” and that future socialism is unclear.

I really don’t see how you can claim that it is presenting an argument using the method of the TP. I say this because it lacks key elements for how to get to the socialist goal – i.e. it has nothing to say about the core questions of the confronting the capitalist state and building organs of workers democracy.

The relevant sections in the TP (http://www.bolshevik.org/tp/IBT_TP_2_Leon_Trotsky_Transitional_Program.html) are “The Picket Line—Defense Groups—Workers’ Militia—The Arming of the Proletariat” and “Soviets”

Of course these ideas need to be presented in such a way as to engage with the existing consciousness of militant workers but if they are absent then there is no bridge to socialism. Instead the implication is the fantasy of a peaceful parliamentary road and therefore all we are left with is something that looks much more like the old reformist minimum-maximum approach that the method of the TP is a direct refutation of.

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Scabby Rabbit - May 2, 2011

@ antie

Greatest of respect, but you’re judging now the level of mobilisation for a struggle that communities have succeeded in winning when the economy was expanding. ‘Water Charges: Round 2′ will be more pronounced as both sides will have much more to lose, and the establishment especially cannot afford to concede. This will inevitably raise the political character of such a struggle and from such experiences are working class activists forged.

I’m not surprised that nobody showed to an anti-water charges meeting now. Why would they? It’s wrong though to say that will be reflective of the mood in working class communities if and when the government unleash the water rats.

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48. WorldbyStorm - May 1, 2011

Paddy/Another Anon. You persist in attacking this site, for what reason I find hard to understand.

I’ve already made it clear that I don’t agree in general terms with the idea of waiting for the revolution for these matters to be sorted out – or the idea that costings somehow equate with doing capitalisms dirty work for it – and would seek a lot more detail on what happens between here and there, indeed on this thread and all like it I’ve reiterated that stance time and again. It’s also a view that’s held widely by a cross-section of those who comment here, and in fairness it’s one that many of those who comment here disagree with.

But curiously that doesn’t seem to register with you. From which it’s hard to shake the conclusion that at root you simply want to shut Mark P or whoever up.

But you’ve been given as much or as little access as Mark P or any other person who wishes to comment and yet you seem to find it infuriating that Mark P or whoever do comment.

That’s their right just as it’s yours to disagree or agree.

All you have to do is comment more – though a consistent user name would be both courteous and more credible.

That’s all it takes.

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49. Garibaldy - May 1, 2011

In response to the remarks about moderation. There’s a tone we try to encourage people to adopt here that means moderation isn’t necessary. Usually if things are taking a turn for the worse we ask people to calm down. Occasionally, some moderation is unfortunately necessary, and a lot of those commenting on the site will have some experience of some editing of their posts, regardless of what their political background is. We try to look at things on a post-by-post basis, rather than take the position that such and such a person is always and forever a troll. People of all political backgrounds add a lot to this site, and we try to keep it that way through encouraging respectful debate from everyone.

There’s been a lot of leeway given on this thread, more than would usually be the case, and not just in one direction. I’d encourage people to engage with arguments and not with individuals, or their suppositions about individuals.

UPDATE: I see that WBS has beaten me to this, but I’ll leave it up now anyway.

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another-anon - May 1, 2011

@WBS

Well, that told me off anyway.

no point commentating on the Mark P revolution, that’s for sure.

all the best, and enjoy the rest of the show.

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WorldbyStorm - May 1, 2011

That’s not a very convincing response.

Any of us takes their ego and online life in their hands when we comment. And everyone one of us has to calculate how much a comment will cause interest/offense/generate a response.

I read a lot of your critique which I agree with. What I don’t get is your concern about Mark P.

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WorldbyStorm - May 1, 2011

BTW, what makes you believe that Mark P’s half as influential as you seem to think?

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Mark P - May 1, 2011

Ah, but that’s what one of my lizard servants would ask if he was trying to throw people off the trail.

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WorldbyStorm - May 1, 2011

Yes, my Master… I mean… I mean, another-anon, I think you’re drawing a lot of crazy conclusions about the Unholy Prince.

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50. make do and mend - May 2, 2011

As per request made of another poster, I’ll change my handle from ‘anon-anon’ to ‘make do and mend’.

I think I’ve noticed a difference in terminology use of ‘costing’ or ‘costing policy in budgets’ by various posters. I was mainly using the term very narrowly as used by Cameron, FG/Labour spokespeople or US Republicans. While they have broad ideological goals in the use of the term costing, they narrowly focus them on budgetary line items to produce budgets with very specific allocation outcomes that affect various working folk in different ways.

Other posters use the term synonomously with the structural frameworks or the economic mechanics of a given state. It’s a broader use of the term. No big deal, but it can lead to confusion.

For example, auntie’s statement, which I largely agree with, uses the broader sense of the term. My use of term might seem antithetical to auntie’s statements but aren’t necessarily so due to the narrower use I assign to the term.

Anyhow, as a free floating voting eco-socialist, I’ll be looking for several attributes from any ULA or any other socialist platform.

Flexibility; simple and achievable goals depending on internal/external conditions to Ireland; autonomy for individual and local groups; the replacement with the govt managerial class (top civil servants) with a low-cost, common-sense mediation mechanisms; and above all a recognition that we live in a world of finite resources with increased competition for those resources. Our economy should reflect this situation.

I ain’t looking for utopia. The world is too complex, but it could be made simpler and more responsive to our needs and the physical environment from which all wealth/value derives. I realise that my wish list is just that.

Change is coming, one way or another. Will the vast of working folk finally get a direct say in how we work, allocate precious resources, govern ourselves, etc. or do we just go along for the ride as we’ve done throughout modern industrial history?

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revolutionaryprogramme - May 2, 2011

Do you think this world that is “simpler and more responsive to our needs” as working people can be achieved under capitalism as your argumentation so far seems to imply.

Presumably your reference to “utopia” is with regard to a socialist transformation of society.

It is my fervant hope that the new workers’ party will have socialism as its aim and will develop a coherent programme for the overthrow of capitalism to achieve that aim.

While this may seem very difficult to achieve from where we are now it is actually the only realistic way that we could get to a world that is “simpler and more responsive to our needs” as working people. The real utopia is the idea that this is achievable without the overthrow of capitalism.

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make do or mend - May 2, 2011

Don’t know where you’re coming from. How you draw implications from a single post might be the problem.

Utopia ain’t go to happen, socialist or otherwise.

make do and mend – formerly anon-anon

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revolutionaryprogramme - May 2, 2011

It is hardly from a single post – you have put forward a fairly consistent approach in a large number of posts under your various names.

But it is nice to hear the truth of what underlies your critique of the proposals put forward by those of us who do think socialism is both possible and necessary.

You think socialism “ain’t going to happen” so I guess the best we can hope for is a few reforms of capitalism then…

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WorldbyStorm - May 5, 2011

Just to add a thought, I don’t want to speak for make do or mend, but that’s not quite what s/he said. They said utopia ain’t going to happen socialist or not. I think that’s a fair point. However much better a socialist society is I don’t believe that even in a post-scarcity context that everyone will be blissfully happy, or at least not for quite some time. And in a way that’s not the worst thing in the world. Discontent can be a useful emotion. I know this is stretching some way off the path, but we should be realistic about what can and cannot be achieved.

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51. Chet Carter - May 2, 2011

This has been a very interesting thread with valid points being made by both sides 1 THE IDEALISTS – The ULA should be a revolutionary socialist organisation working for the downfall of Capitalism and there is no need to offer solutions to the present capitalist crisis. 2 – THE REALISTS socialist revolutionary rhetoric means very little to working class people. ULA should be a broad front that addresses their immediate concerns by putting forward solutions in the context of a capitalist system.

One question I would ask is if ULA does go down the first option – Revolutionary Socialism. What is the point of ULA – Revolutionary socialists already have the SWP and SP to organise through?

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revolutionaryprogramme - May 2, 2011

In reality it is a bit more complicated than that and I would challenge your use of terminology.

Surely it is the reformists who are actually the idealists as they think it is possible to make capitalism work in a way that benefits working people while it is the revolutionaries who are the realists because they know that a society that works in the interests of working people is only possible if the capitalist system is overthrown.

Of course both sides in the reform/revolution divide are in favour of working for immediate reforms – what divides us is the the strategic vision for improving working people’s lives.

But it is also true that this is not just an issue for how society will be organised in the long term but is vitally important for how we fight back in the here and now.

Do we organise on the basis of militant class struggle and the building of workers’ council type organisations separate from, and in opposition to, the institutions of the capitalist state and parliamentary democracy?

Or do we limit ourselves to protest within the framework of bourgeois legality and changes within the parliamentary system?

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Jim Monaghan - May 2, 2011

I am not convinced that there is a clear dividing line such as reformists versus revolutionaries. I would prefer a line between those who are willing to fight back against the cuts etc. and those who find all sorts of reasons not to.There are sects that proclaim that any struggle that does not pose the question of power, soviets etc. (take your choice) is a waste of time.There are people who think that the cuts etc. can be reversed and indeed lots of social justice can be achieved without essentially changing the system. I think we would have common ground on the basis of refusing to accept the cuts and the dictats. The divide comes when say the ICTU leadership accept TINA (there is no alternative). But a union leadership which is prepared to go into opposition and fight, then that is a different thing altogether.Shorthand– Unity in struggle.
As struggle develops we and hopefully the workingclass can distinguish between the sheep and the goats.For what it is worth I have seen a lot of rhetoric in my day, sometimes combined with struggle and sometimes not.I cannot see any logic in refusing to back a struggle that is just for immediate demands. The referendum campaign appears to me a demand that can be supported by many who would not necessarily see it as anything but simple logic and who would not see it as particularly revolutionary. Only in the context of a campaign and the resistance of the bourgeois parties to it could it be seen as reformist or revolutionary.Whatever way it goes, I see it as a good campaign.Oh, an analogy. Many civil rights demands were conceded in the North. This did not mean that they were intrinsically reformist or revolutionary.
The current parties SP, SWP et al are divide sometimes by just history but as well as that different analyses of the dynamics of the struggle in Ireland and internationally.The context of a united party can create a possibility of these disagreements being sorted out and a common program being developed. The question of organising in the North is a particular problem which has ramifications on how we view the national question. On this and a few other questions I have quite strong views. But don’t want a premature argument where we come to a quick solution and reverse the gains of unity. I think a process of ironing out disagreements and where we come to a common analysis.I suppose a little modesty on all our parts, that none of us are Lenins, nevermind Trotskys and that we have not a fully worked out Holy Grail of a program would help.As well as that a decision to patiently explain our views and an acceptance that those who do not agree with us are not the enemy would help.
There has been some mention of workers councils. If and hopefully when the struggle heats up there will be many different sorts of organisation which will lead the struggle on the ground. Who knows our trade unions might come back into life as workers decide they cannot take any more. We will see. The important thing is to support those in struggle to the best of our ability.

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revolutionaryprogramme - May 2, 2011

I agree with Jim that there is an important divide between those who want to fight back and those who use excuses not to.

But that reality surely doesn’t obscure the other reality that even within the ranks of those prepared to fight the revolution vs reform difference over long-term strategy still exists. And these differences will also manifest themself in the tactics and strategy used to fight back against the immediate attacks.

I also agree with Jim that any particular campaign for a particular reform of the existing system is not inherently reformist or revolutionary. That can only be understood in the context of the overall programme and the strategy and tactics used in the specific campaign.

But it seems to me that there is an important distinction between party type organisations and campaign united front type organisations.

Parties are about changing society and compromise between the strategically divergent persepctive of reform and revolution is not really possible and the “unity” of such compromises is necessarily fake and unprincipled.

United front campaigns on the other hand are about dealing with a specifc problem facing working people and as such unity between reformists and revolutionaries can be principled because there is a real overlap in the short-term objectives.

Of course tensions over the tactics and strategy which result from the divergent overall perspectives can emerge at times but that is not inevitable in every campaign and quite often can be contained by a simple division of labour.

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52. Jim Monaghan - May 2, 2011

Saturday May 7th

Forum for Trade Union activists. Rank and File trade unionist meeting supported by the United Left TDs. 12 noon Unite Hall 55-56 Mid Abbey St Dublin 1. Open to all those who want fighting trade unions. Contact Brian O’Boyle 0876574100 for more info.

Glad to see a common initiative.Being retired from the main job I am not really eligible.

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53. make do and mend - May 2, 2011

@Rev-programme

I’m not sure if it’s your lack of analytical nous, lack of inference ability, or just plain inability to read but if you think “utopia ain’t going happen” and “socialsim ain’t going to happen” are equivalent sentences you either believe socialism equals utopia or you just jump to pre-conceived conclusions without reading the posts.

But thank you for labelling my approach/thoughts as consistent. Very few, if any, people rarely imbue me with such an attribute.

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revolutionaryprogramme - May 2, 2011

Well misinterpretations can happen but if I was wrong then what exactly did it mean when you wrote “Utopia ain’t go to happen, socialist or otherwise” as a direct response to me arguing that the socialist transformation of society was the “only realistic way that we could get to a world that is ‘simpler and more responsive to our needs’ as working people”?

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54. FergusD - May 3, 2011

I’ve missed this discussion alas, so no doubt everyone has moved on to Osama Bin Laden’s demise. It seesm to me that this important debate about what a revolutionary socialist party’s programme should be, (well) this side of a revolution would benefit from a consideration of Totsky’s Transitional Programme, which attempted to address this issue. Bearing in mind that Trotsky’s view was not that the programme was some kind of list of formulaic demands (which is how the WRP in the UK used it).

http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1938/tp/index.htm

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revolutionaryprogramme - May 3, 2011

For an argument in favour of the continuing applicability of the method of the TP see http://www.bolshevik.org/tp/IBT_TP_1_Introduction.html

Also see comments http://cedarlounge.wordpress.com/2011/04/28/building-the-ula/#comment-97334 and http://cedarlounge.wordpress.com/2011/04/28/building-the-ula/#comment-97357 for a discussion on how the SP are attempting to apply that method in the current situation.

And see http://www.bolshevik.org/Leaflets/Irish_crisis_09.html for an alternative approach to applying the TP in the current Irish context.

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revolutionaryprogramme - May 3, 2011

And http://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/for-a-revolutionary-socialist-programme-2/ for how it might apply to the process, initiated by the ULA, for a new workers’ party in Ireland.

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55. D_D - May 3, 2011

The opening paragraph of the classic marxist text on ‘Reform or Revolution’ by Rosa Luxemburg goes:

“At first view the title of this work may be found surprising. Can the Social-Democracy be against reforms? Can we contrapose the social revolution, the transformation of the existing order, our final goal, to social reforms? Certainly not. The daily struggle for reforms, for the amelioration of the condition of the workers within the framework of the existing social order, and for democratic institutions, offers to the Social-Democracy an indissoluble tie. The struggle for reforms is its means; the social revolution, its aim.

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WorldbyStorm - May 3, 2011

Great quote D_D.

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56. WorldbyStorm - May 3, 2011

I’m sure revolutionaryprogramme all of what I’m proposing you’ve heard before, and yet if we are asking serious questions about tactics and strategies it’s always worth reexamining issues again and again. Apologies for the discursive nature of this, my thoughts aren’t fully formed at all, and there’s much I agree with in what you say, the establishment ultimately of parallel structures etc… but…

WorldbyStorm is rightly concerned about TINA and believes that working people will not become active in fighting back unless “there’s a clear lead on how their fears (and hopes) will be addressed in the short to medium term while still keeping our eyes on the goal of a transformation of our society.”
I’m sorry but I can only interpret this as a call for developing a reformist programme to present to the working class now with socialism presented as some vague aspiration for the future.

Two thoughts. Why should it be vague? Why not have a cohort of people saying we are working to the implementation of socialism in a decade or two decades or whatever? And how is that more vague or aspirational than waiting for an international socialist revolution at an indeterminate time?
But those are meta issues. The basic critique of your position is that I cannot see how working people will be attracted given what they face to the latter position of working towards a revolution which you yourself say is contingent on external events. When would that be? Next year? Ten years from now? A hundred? I could be very wrong in believing that this is the reaction of people, but that is a sense that has developed over decades of working with others and indeed the experience of parties left of social democracy.

It also leaves an enormous gap between the rhetoric [sincere as it is] of revolution and the actuality of a political context which is set up just precisely so to maintain the vestiges of democracy and provision of social services so that outright revolution will most likely not occur.

I do agree that TINA is a very real problem but it is primarily a result of 20 years of social partnership having taught the Irish working class some very bad lessons about the possible successful use of militant class struggle. This does make the task of revolutionary socialists in mobilising the working class to fight difficult as it involves the workers’ movement re-learning a lot of things but I for one am not about to adopt reformist clothing just because the task is hard.

Except that in the 1980s it’s hard to argue that pre-social partnership there was a mass or minor revolutionary appetite. By any metric I care to think about the power of the dominant political formations all wedded to capitalism was in some respects even greater and more unquestioned even if now we see more naked attacks on working people.

In other words social partnership – and I’m not a fan – isn’t in my analysis the major reason for quiescent workers. I think one can look at a much broader range of issues, including the rise of a consumer society, a sense that all other alternatives politically are nonsense, etc, etc.

That this includes social partnership is unquestionable, most obviously in that it hugely blunted the appetite to defend gains in the past two years, but it was far from the only factor.
And there’s more as well. Social partnership, and I know this from direct experience, was largely a creature of the public sector. Out there in the private sector where I have and continue to work there were vast tranches of workers untouched except by falling tax rates [which of course elided with the nostrums of the right].

I’m no public sector basher, but one of the major failures of unions was to engage properly with private sector workers – and given that there is in many areas a pre-existing suspicion of unions, something potentially deepened by the years of the ‘boom’ when many workers had the comforting but futile illusion that they didn’t need to be in unions and that now the media mood music seeks to ‘blame’ unions I’m dubious as to what happens next.

But let’s go further. Where is the appetite for strikes? Where are the structures within which they might be organized? I work with two fairly thoroughly unionised workplaces, both in the public sector, and the idea that either would go down that path of, for example workers councils in the near or medium term just isn’t feasible. Having spent most of my working life in the private sector the idea that such entities could be instituted there simply isn’t at the races in the medium term, or perhaps longer. Many such workplaces are run in a command and control style where workers are passive, subservient to bosses and afraid to rock the boat. The idea that they’ll radicalise doesn’t seem to me to be very likely, at least not without considerable effort and time.

A fightback that was based on presenting a reformist programme would be deeply flawed in my opinion as it would be based on the passive “vote them into the Dail” approach. This is counter-posed to the programme of militant class struggle based on building organs of proletarian democracy which is necessary to both fight and win against the immediate attacks and also provides the basis for the self-governing of the new society by working people. It is also inherently nationalist as it necessarily deals with things in the current context of rule by capitalist nation states – and as I have argued above internationalism has to be at the very core of our approach.

I’d agree anything based purely on a Dáil-centric approach is doomed to failure. This has to be a broad campaigning struggle with many manifestations. But… your second and third sentences should really have a fair few caveats in there because each element of them is contingent on so many other issues that it’s hard to believe that it could easily come to pass. How in the absence of organs of proletarian democracy is it possible to fight and win against the immediate attacks? It isn’t and they’re succeeding. Such organs don’t exist in any serious form now, or really in any form at all. And a programme, no matter how well fashioned, isn’t going to convince people simply by appeals to a new society. Not in a context where the left is essentially shut out of conversation.

How does a programme per se deal with the immediate reality that we have in power a Fine Gael/Labour coalition that is instituting much the same policies as the previous government? How does such a programme even begin to address the concerns of working people raised above?

Indeed I’d worry that the step between where we are and where you (and I) want us to be is so great that to try to underplay it is hugely problematic in terms of credibility and attracting activism.

Ok so you reject my perspectives (as per http://www.bolshevik.org/Leaflets/Irish_crisis_09.html), fair enough, but what are your “anti-capitalist” alternative programmes for getting to socialism?

I’m not sure I’m an ‘anti-capitalist’ so much as a republican socialist. I want a revolutionary transformation but its going to take years and I’m almost certain it won’t happen in my lifetime. And to assume it will or it can and to argue that to engage with facts on the ground, so to speak, is reformism is perhaps to set the bar impossibly high. Then to further elevate the bar is to argue that no progress can be made short of an international revolution (a sort of replay of 1917 as we might all have liked it but that didn’t happen the first time so is unlikely to in entirely changed circumstances).
I can’t offer you anything that I believe guarantees anything. All I can suggest is the hope that that hard slog will be taken by those who can do it. The one message I take from the Left Archive is that there’s only one way to political success, and that is through the grind of political work on the ground day in day out in communities and at local and national level and that even then it takes years, decades, and so far has functioned mostly in an exemplary fashion rather than seeing any serious degree of state power afforded to those involved. And part of that is about addressing the functional problems that face working people in their daily weekly and yearly lives.

I believe though that the major problem is one of trust. The left isn’t trusted to run an economy, to deal with the society, to do whatever. In some ways it’s not trusted with democracy. Our brand of politics from genuine social democracy [you know who you are] to the further left isn’t taken entirely seriously. And even if these are for the most part unfair perceptions the truth is that they exist.
And this works on the micro as well as the macro. We’re not trusted with rents and mortgages, with jobs, with education, with a raft of issues that impinge on a daily basis with workers.

Fundamentally we’re not trusted by the very class that we hope to be a part of and represent.
However good the programme is to put anything like that in front of working people is seen as at best a distraction, at worst simply too detached from the everyday experience of people.
Whether our intentions are sincere, and overwhelmingly they are, it simply doesn’t resonate.

Sure, it’s not everyone. The ULA got a good vote, but even still, after the worst crisis of capitalism in my lifetime (perhaps the oil crisis was worse, but perhaps not), 5 TDs is the sum total. Sinn Féin has done well too on what could be described as a traditional social democratic programme. Left Indo’s likewise. But even still we can count on the fingers of five hands or so the number of leftish and left TDs in Dáil Éireann, and even – if like you – I don’t see that as the be all and end all it’s a shockingly poor tally given what has happened.

To me the essential nub of this is that if workers don’t trust us with their rents and jobs it’s fanciful to think they’ll trust us with managing a social transformation – in fact I’d suspect that for many they’d do all in their power to stymie just such a development. And that being the case there’s some pretty basic work to be done before the first workers council appears in a company or wherever.

And here’s the thing. In some ways I wouldn’t blame them. During the last few years it’s been near fantastical (in a bad way) to see how some on the left of all varieties have demonstrated a clear inability to engage with the socio-economic situation we have as distinct from the one we all want. If they don’t understand the now then who is going to trust them to understand what by any measure are hugely experimental socio-economic structures? Some, yep, some. But a small minority. And all this before we factor in the intrinsic antagonism of the political and societal culture and media to the left.

And that to my mind means that placing the revolution in the terms described above as the central feature of this is a mistake. It’s hard indeed to think of any area of life where however much one wanted an outcome one wouldn’t want to develop as clear a path to that outcome as was possible.

Which leads to the conclusion, what is required are people who want that revolutionary transformation and place it at the centre of their politics but simultaneously attempt to shift across a broad array of other areas towards progressive and left outcomes. Or to put it another way, no single programme is going to deliver us to those outcomes [though no harm having programmes, or a number of same], it’s going to be a messy and partial thing, but… what it does require is a clear eye on both the present, the immediate future, the medium term and the ultimate goals.

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DublinDilettante - May 3, 2011

. But even still we can count on the fingers of five hands or so the number of leftish and left TDs in Dáil Éireann, and even – if like you – I don’t see that as the be all and end all it’s a shockingly poor tally given what has happened.

I think this is a needlessly gloomy perspective. You can’t divorce the performance of left candidates from the pre-existing political conditions of Irish society.

The whole of modern history is screaming at us the central fact that the European working class still hasn’t got the Socialist International out of its system. There are still leftists who foster illusions in the Labour Party; you can imagine how much more entrenched those illusions are amongst an electorate that’s semi-detached politically. When you factor in the legacy of republicanism (and the illusions now being sown in its vanguard in some quarters), the electoral performance of the radical left makes a lot more sense.

I agree that consciousness is as important as organisation, but consciousness can change rapidly. Without a vessel to hold it (in the labour and political spheres), it can and does decay into despair and apathy.

My position on this debate is, I think, quite similar to yours; that the left needs a transitional approach with a revolutionary focus. But out-and-out liberal social democracy, which is the outermost limit of our present political discourse, leads inevitably to betrayal and demoralisation. The Irish left should be acutely, painfully aware of this.

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WorldbyStorm - May 3, 2011

Absolutely, no disagreement there. I think the example of the LP at the moment is very instructive.

But, at the same time I think realism as distinct from gloom is important. These are solid gains, but they can be lost and I’m not sure it’s consciousness as much as political education, though I guess the distinctions aren’t huge, which is necessary and I think that can take a long while.

Let me put a slightly more positive spin on it. There’s going to be a fair few people who formerly voted FF who went LP this time and may, just may, be willing to push further leftwards. That’s why I regard the ULA, SF etc as such positive developments, that there is space and formations there ready to engage.

Mind you, note I said 5 hands… that’s not that bad really given this state. :)

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LeftAtTheCross - May 3, 2011

WBS, that’s an excellent summary.

On your final point about the immediate / medium / long term goals, surely that’s something that is current in all political movements, although has perhaps atrophied in most. The difficulty of maintaining focus across multiple timeframes while engaging with, and reacting to, daily reality is surely something that has sapped the will and led to the moral if not material corruption of most ideologically driven movements. In particular the multi-generational aspect. We criticise, and rightly so, the dynasty politics of the mainstream, whether that’s FF or the DPRK. We lose sight of the long march that China is still embarked upon, or is it? We wonder(ed) in those deludely optimistic moments whether Gilmore et al were sleepers, carrying their ideological formation in OSF into the cabinet room? How to maintain momentum, ideological purity, and yet adapt to circumstances, without sacrifycing the long term goals? It is a difficulty that is amplified by soundbite-based representative democracy is it not? And given all you have said in that lengthy comment, surely that real-world engagement, and the distractions it creates, is the strongest reason of all to engage in this multifaceted process of transformation, whether gradual or ruptural, inside or outside the existing structures. Even if there was a revolution tomorrow, it would not be the end of history so to speak, the work of building socialism would continue albeit at a different stage or level.

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WorldbyStorm - May 3, 2011

That’s a great way of putting it. And one thing that’s good is that there are many voices. That’s crucial. The left mops up more people that way and the chance for more to be brought into the fold increases.

What I’d like are social democrats who, unlike the LP, didn’t forget that the name of the game is that transformation of society, not its reform, and that this should be something that is sought sooner rather than later, or socialists who recognise that it’s not a matter of beating capitalism at its own game [ie running th system better than capitalists] but rather showing thateven short of revolution there are options and alternatives so that ultimately we can bring as many people to that transformation as is possible. Sort of a left democratic socialist position.

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LeftAtTheCross - May 3, 2011

“What I’d like are…”

I’d like that also. But of course we don’t have that now, and the revolution begins from where we are, not where we’d like it to start. Working towards that position, via the ULA or the WP or SF or even elements of the LP, well that’s the task at hand isn’t it.

“Sort of a left democratic socialist position.”

Perhaps you should suggest a “Left Democratic” organisation to the ULA, to take the form of a new “Workers’ Party”! Oh wait a sec…

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Scabby Rabbit - May 4, 2011

Maybe I’m wrong but I’m pretty sure anon-anon/make do and mend is a different contributor to paddy/another-anon?

Just struck me that folks seemed to be talking at cross purposes.

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revolutionaryprogramme - May 4, 2011

Thanks for your comments WorldbyStorm.

I agree that my use of the word “vague” wasn’t particularly useful. Something like “disconnected” might get across my concern better. This is why I like the method of the Transitional Program, as I understand it, because it provides a way to link the immediate demands and campaigns in a coherent way with an argument for the necessity of the seizure of power.

The process by which any individual worker comes to an understanding that it is necessary to bring about fundamental change in society is a complicated one (for instance I imagine that the contributors to this blog would all have quite distinct personal stories) and I take on board your useful comments on the variety of factors that have mitigated against this idea getting beyond the ranks of the tiny marginalised far-left – though I do think that the politics of Social Partnership have played a big part in this.

I agree completely that at this moment in time “Fundamentally we’re not trusted by the very class that we hope to be a part of and represent” and “that if workers don’t trust us with their rents and jobs it’s fanciful to think they’ll trust us with managing a social transformation” and of course we need to change this. With of course the big question being how to do so? I think we win this trust through a combination of being principled activists in campaigns against the immediate attacks, along with being open and honest about our belief in the necessity of a revolutionary transformation of society.

I am certainly not wanting to argue that “to engage with facts on the ground, so to speak, is reformism” as that would invalidate the vast bulk of the actual political activity I have engaged in over the last 20 or so years since I’ve been an organised self-describing revolutionary socialist. The issue for me is where the political content of that “engagement with the facts on the ground” points to – is it a reformist or revolutionary road?

I note that in reference to my argument for militant class struggle based on organs of workers’ democracy that you have pointed to the difficulties involved in creating them given the very low level of class consciousness and political activity by the working class that exists today. I agree that this is a difficult path but the more people commit to it the greater the chances of being successful. Unfortunately most leftists I have ever worked with in united front campaigns and/or had political discussion with are instead trying to come up with clever tricks to avoid the political isolation and hard work the revolutionary path entails, usually by watering down the political content of the revolutionary programme they profess to believe in. See for instance my critique of how I think the SP distort the method of the TP – http://cedarlounge.wordpress.com/2011/04/28/building-the-ula/#comment-97357.

The IBT leaflet http://www.bolshevik.org/Leaflets/Irish_crisis_09.html is an example of how I think this should be done. You didn’t comment directly on this and I’d be interested in your critique. I can accept that the message of hard class struggle may seem unrealistic to many working class activists but at the same time that leaflet has been enthusiastically received at the big demonstrations in Dublin it has been distributed at. The problem is that the perspective it outlines isn’t considered to be a viable option. But how does it become to be seen as a viable option by working class militants? I think that requires more self-describing revolutionary socialists to actually start arguing for, and where possible applying, it so we can get to a critical mass where it is seen in practice as a real option for working class militants and from there built upon so eventually it is an option for the wider working class as a whole.

So I spend a lot of my time trying to convince self-describing revolutionary socialists to live up to that description and stop watering down their politics in the futile and self-defeating search for political short-cuts, which even if apparently successful in the short-term actually just end up being part of the problem rather than the solution, by deepening the illusions in the supposed viability of the reformist road.

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WorldbyStorm - May 5, 2011

I’m still working on a response to this so I’ll get back to you asap.

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57. Socialist Republican - May 4, 2011

Have the IRSP got involved with the ULA? One of their spokespersons is chairing the ULA Public Meeting in Sligo this week

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58. Socialist Republican - May 5, 2011

http://oceanfm.ie/article/Meeting-of-United-Left-Alliance-in-Sligo/

Theres a link to OceanFM on the ULA meeting tonight in Sligo. Ross Gildea, who is quoted in it, is an IRSP spokesperson. Joe H and Richard BB are both speaking at it as is Independent Socialist Declan Bree

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59. Fight the cuts - May 6, 2011

AFAIK the chair is also a member of ‘People First’ and ‘Sligo Workers Alliance’, which is basically Bree’s Sligo grouping. There are a variety of leftists involved with Bree’s group.

IRSP are not affiliated to the ULA, it is just SP,SWP,Tipp group and Sligo group.

If you look at the link it mentions Gildea as the Secretary of ‘People First’ and the ULA Sligo meeting was held under the auspices of that. Hope this helps.

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D_D - May 6, 2011

Anoraks corner:

Socialist Democracy have thrown in their lot, though maybe not with a formal affiliation, and the John O’Dwyer group (?) in New Ross also and with formal affiliation AFAIK.

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D_D - May 6, 2011

Anorak 2:

The SWP are not affiliated to the ULA. The PBPA which is made up of the SWP and independents, is the affiliated body.

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Gerry - May 6, 2011

On a point of clarification the Sligo Workers Alliance (SWA) is not Declan’s (Bree) Sligo grouping.

Declan is a member of it, as are members of various trade unions as well as members of Declans organisation in Sligo, the IRSP, éirígí, SWP, a number of independent candidates and others with no political affiliation.

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60. Socialist Republican - May 6, 2011

Thank you. What is “People First” do you know?

Any word on how the meeting went last night?

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61. Fight the cuts - May 6, 2011

People First. Well not 100% but I think there was some controversy in Sligo over the Cranmore regeneration project and it’s effect on some green areas. I think People First was initially set up to campaign for the retainment of green areas in the town. It must have developed since then.

I heard the meeting in Sligo was superb. Figures are always hard with different estimates, but roughly 60-65 people in attendence which comparing to other meetings around the country is very, very good. More rural areas I think the ULA are a bit weak in at the moment so it’s an encouraging sign.

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Socialist Republican - May 6, 2011

Thank you FTC

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62. Fight the cuts - May 6, 2011

Thanks for clarifications Gerry and D_D.

Why aren’t SWP affiliated? I think it’s basically the same thing anyway, as isn’t Kieran Allen a member of SWP but also involved in ULA?

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Mark P - May 6, 2011

The SWP aren’t affiliated directly, as People Before Profit is the vehicle they do their electoral work through. They are affiliated through People Before Profit, along with some independents, most notably Joan Collins.

I understand from People Before Profit members that People Before Profit will probably dissolve itself into the ULA once the ULA has functioning structures. At that point, the SWP would presumably directly affiliate.

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63. Fight the cuts - May 6, 2011

Mark P,

Thanks for that. Is there any news on these structures,ie. local branches forming? Nationwide meetings seem to be going well.

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Mark P - May 6, 2011

Where enough people have joined at the meetings I understand that local branches have been established. I haven’t got a list however.

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revolutionaryprogramme - May 10, 2011

Cork city is having our first branch meeting on Tuesday 24 May

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64. irishelectionliterature - May 9, 2011

Was at a meeting this evening with Richard Boyd Barrett, Nicola Curry and Ruth Coppinger. Was most impressed by Both, Boyd Barrett is an excellent speaking and very much on the ball.
I made a few notes so will do up a post in the next few days on the meeting.
One annoying thing is that the ULA had no leaflets at the meeting (Yes I’ve an interest :) ) , yet there were SWP, IAWM and ‘Enough is Enough’ leaflets handed to me as I went in, having already got some Queens visit leaflet from the éirígí person outside.
Its a small thing (and something that I’m sure will be remedied) but I came home with an abundance of leaflets and not one of them from the ULA itself.

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Budapestkick - May 10, 2011

That’s being rectified. There will be a general recruitment leaflet and membership cards produced within the next few weeks.

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65. another-anon - May 10, 2011

I see that the socialist party’s tactic of knowing shag-all about economics worked out really well for Joe Higgins on Vincent Browne last night.

The idea of having to convince those who aren’t already convinced is an alien concept to the ULA – a faultline that will consign them to a rump existence outside of their ‘big’ personalities such as joe and richard unless they start actually engaging with reality.

socialist solutions still need to have a grounding in the dynamics of economic relations – still need to show an understanding of such dynamics. ‘Ordinary decent working people’ (Joe can’t say working class on TV) and ‘greedy bankers’ can only get you so far gentlemen, before you start looking like an idiot.

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revolutionaryprogramme - May 10, 2011

I do think the current approach of the ULA TDs of trying to look reasonable and pragmatic is running up against problems like we saw last night.

The problem being that there is no reasonable or pragmatic answer to working people’s problem within the context of capitalism.

Although Joe referred to the need for working people to be in control he didn’t clearly pose this in terms of the overthrow of capitalism and its replacement with socialism. Instead it would be interpreted as a call for some kind of social democratic reform of capitalism – and thereby fall into VB’s “where is the money coming from” trap.

Although such an alternative explicitly socialist approach would of course still have had VB and co. throwing up their hands in horror at its supposed unrealistic nature, at least it would be telling working people the truth instead of confusing socialism with reforms of capitalism as I’m afraid Joe’s approach last night ended up doing.

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LeftAtTheCross - May 10, 2011

Well you say that, but there’s a to be done patiently in countering the orthodox media narrative and building mass support for an alternative analysis. That job isn’t helped if Joe or any of the other ULA TDs pander to the already converted on the hard Left, that’s not the purpose of VB’s show. I am sympathetic to the view that lack of detail hinders the digestibility of the ULA message, but the fact that any Left viewpoint is more and more being aired within the mainstream is progress none the less, regardless of its shortcomings. A broader range of Left views would of course be welcome. In time perhaps.

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revolutionaryprogramme - May 10, 2011

My point would be that unless an explicitly socialist alternative is presented then the orthodox media narrative isn’t actually being challenged in any real way.

If what is presented is going to be interpreted as reforms of capitalism what has it got to do with socialism – except in the sense of a social democratic bastardisation of the word.

While it is an indication of the times that a slightly wider range of left-wing views are being seen more regularly in the main-stream media is it really the job of self-describing “revolutionary socialists”, like the Socialist Party, to present a social democratic reformist message? That is surely the job of social democratic reformists…

What defines any political tendency is the programme presented. When asked what solution you have to the economic crisis the duty of any revolutionary socialist is to clearly and explicitly put forward the case for the overthrow of capitalism.

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LeftAtTheCross - May 10, 2011

“My point would be that unless an explicitly socialist alternative is presented then the orthodox media narrative isn’t actually being challenged in any real way.”

The argument there is about what constitutes “real”.

“When asked what solution you have to the economic crisis the duty of any revolutionary socialist is to clearly and explicitly put forward the case for the overthrow of capitalism.”

“Duty”? The job of the Left at this time is to build class consciousness. Higgins’ appearances on mainstream TV further that. Whether it furthers it sufficiently is a matter of opinion. As Higgins has substantial popular support in electoral terms, and as he was appearing as a TD representing the ULA, it’s his decision really (or that of the ULA decision making cadre) to decide on what level is deemed sufficient, or pragmatic, or realistic, or whatever other adjective one might choose to deploy. Whether it is “correct” is a matter for debate of course, but in the world of electoral politics there are always going to be compromises are there not, between correct and pragmatic. Such is life.

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revolutionaryprogramme - May 10, 2011

“but in the world of electoral politics there are always going to be compromises are there not, between correct and pragmatic.”

well yes indeed and that is why electoral politics are only supposed to be a secondary support to the main politics of socialists which is organising the working class to fight the attacks of the bosses and their government. And in the process start to lay the basis for the revolutionary transformation of society which will come about through those new organs of working class rule replacing the capitalist state and its parliamentary fraud within a genuinely democratic rule of the majority.

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Mark P - May 10, 2011

Our multi-pseudonymed friend returns to add more sneering demands for “costed” reformism.

I’ll tell you what, another-anon, given that you find the refusal of the Socialist Party’s refusal to outline a detailed social democratic fairy tale so offensive, why don’t you run along and form your own party which can spend as much time as it likes trying to balance capitalism’s books better than the capitalists?

Surely that would be a better use of your time than coming here to cast your pearls before swine. And those of us who maintain that it is neither possible nor desirable to outline a “costed” social democratic programme which both protects the working class and meets the approval of capitalism’s economic propagandists can get on with building a sociaist movement.

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antie - May 10, 2011

In fairness he has a point- the ULA talks about repudiating the debt but hasn’t once outlined what they’d do afterwards in terms of currency or expenditure, which given the ULA’s position of ‘fighting every cut’ leaves them open to the justifiable question, ‘and what next?’.

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66. Terry McDermott - May 10, 2011

‘Ordinary decent working people’ (Joe can’t say working class on TV) and ‘greedy bankers’ can only get you so far gentlemen, before you start looking like an idiot.’
I wouldn’t say Higgins ever looks like an idiot. But he does fall back on rhetroic too much- ‘slave labour’ ‘savage cuts’etc. There is no slave labour in Ireland. Not all cuts are savage, save it for those at are. Clare Daly has impressed me- well able for the critics. Meet people half way- point out how the public-priviate divide is a myth- nurses married to builders etc.
For those salvating about splits, hey at least the ULA has discussions about policy, uinlike say, the PHoenix’s favourites Sinn Fein or indeed a typical SIPTU conference.

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67. Jim Monaghan - May 10, 2011

Talk about herrings, red and otherwise. has anyone given costings for bailing out the banks which turned out to be credible. As Morgan Kelly stated the ruling elites have been consistently wrong. ULA would be mad to get itself into a game where the rules are not transparent and where the main players (banks, Dept. Of Finance, EU, IMF, etc.) have been proven to be wrong( and maybe actually deceitful).
The poor are taking the brunt of the punishment for the crisis. To use Lenihans remark about partying, well the rich have had no need to stop partying as we are picking up the tab.
I am reminded of Peadar O’Donnell’s reply to DeValera when DeValera stated that with O’Donnells policies emigration would have been the same. O’Donnell replied saying that the emigrants would have been different.
Even if this crisis is solved it will be at the expense of the poor and relatively poor and the victims will not be the rich.
ULA’s has many tasks.
Supporting and building every effort at a fightback is one. Joe , Richard and co. have been exemplary on this. I have only one fear about their work and that is that they will burn themselves out.
Building a socialist consciousness. This is a process. The presenting of a full socialist program in the abstract will only appeal to the few and doctrinaires. We need bridges between the current consciousness of people and that of revolutionary socialism. I would guess that most workers feel that the ICTU and Labour should be defending their interests in a social democratic fashion. Challenging the failure of these and others to stand up for workers is part of the process.
I am a contrarian about a lot of what goes for economics on the left. I genuinely believe that this is a major economic crisis of systemic gravity and that there are limits to Keynesian approaches. In a small open economy like Ireland I think it is impossible for Ff, Fg, Labour and any combination to break the trend and do a stimulus.They are caught between a rock and a hard place. Do the IMF/EU cuts and the economy goes down the drain. FG, Labour and FF tell the workers and the poor that accepting the cuts will help.”pie in the sky, when you die.” This is now known to more and more people as bulls**t.We are just behind Greece in this. A Marshall aid type plan could do something. But this is only possible on a pan EU basis.
The simple message is taking the cuts will not help the economy or our long term future.
I am saddened that the referendum campaign and others are not been done on a ULA basis and extending out to much broader forces.We are still having a Life Of Brian type tripping over each other in the dark.

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68. revolutionaryprogramme - May 10, 2011

Jim says “The presenting of a full socialist program in the abstract will only appeal to the few and doctrinaires. We need bridges between the current consciousness of people and that of revolutionary socialism.” which seems to nicely codify what many of you here seem to think,

So it seems you are proposing that instead of telling the truth – that only a socialist transformation of society can solve working people’s problems – we say what instead?

I agree completely that we need a bridge but that is not in terms of some kind of half-way house programme of left social democracy.

The bridge to socialist consciousness is militant class struggle against the attacks of the bosses andd their government. Building our own organisations which will lay the basis for, and point in the direction of, the workers council type organs of workers’ democracy which will both make the revolutionary transformation of society possible and provide the framework for building the new society. This is the political method of the “bridge” – the Transitional Programme of Trotsky.

Left social democracy in terms of programme, no matter how radical, is not a step on the way to socialism but rather a complete diversion within the framework of capitalism. There will of course be some convergence over the immediate campaigns in defence of our class but the strategic paths of reform and revolution are separate.

The politics of reform have plenty of advocates and it is not the job of revolutionary socialists to put forward the half-baked lies of social democracy. Socialists are defined by the programme they present to the working class not by whatever secret subjective desires they may think they have in their hearts.

This is a lesson that was learnt at the split in the socialist movement at the time of WWI. The Russian Revolution was the positive side to that lesson while the murder of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht and the defeat of the German Revolution was the negative.

Now maybe you will say that is irrelevant and ahistorical – but what lessons, if any, do you draw from that split in the socialist movement. I read the debates from the time and it is amazing how they resonate with the discussions we have here.

This is at the core of the question facing the ULA – will it be a party that tells the working class the truth by presenting a programme of revolutionary socialism or will it help the capitalists by spreading the lies of left social democracy?

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69. Jim Monaghan - May 10, 2011

“So it seems you are proposing that instead of telling the truth”
I try and tell the truth. I state the system is not working. It is driving more and more people in poverty and desperation.I try and adapt the strategy of marxism to the Irish context.I try and analyse where we are. I try and avoid turning marxism into cant and abstractions.I try and give praise where individuals and groups do the right things and ULA was certainly a right thing. I recall one sectist who went around Dublin calling for a sliding scale of wages. This in terms and language used in the USA and not here where different words are used. People like that are one step removed from insisting that we use Russian rather than the local language.Are you saying that ULA or its component parts are telling lies?
They may be mistaken and since I disagree with some parts of the programs of its components they certainly are, but telling lies, NO.
“Left social democracy in terms of programme, no matter how radical, is not a step on the way to socialism but rather a complete diversion within the framework of capitalism”
So tell us how Trotsky was wrong to engage with left moving formations such as the ILP, POUM, SAP, etc.Do you think that individuals, groups, parts of parties will move in one jump to a full revolutionary program. You would have been an incredible canvasser, moving individual workers who want a fightback program to full revolutionary consciousness in one bound.
In a weak moment I looked at your suggested program. You mentioned an occupation in Waterford. To me it implied that only you had noticed this struggle. The SP, SWP et al have been promoting every type of fightback for eons. I would add that this struggle was a defensive one and that Waterford Glass is a shadow of its former self. There are many reasons for the sapping of the will to fight back. The most important one in my opinion is not social partnership but the defeat of the miners. In the aftermath of this defeat strike days collapsed. Social partnership was a desperate and craven response by ICTU et al. to this defeat.Like rabbits in the headlights they are mesmerised by the scale of the crisis and have collapsed in front of the bourgeois onslaught. But as Morgan Kelly predicted as it becomes obvious that the cuts are only making things even worse we will see a turn where more and more workers decide that surrender is not an option..
To relate to people you have to state things in language that is contemporary, using examples that resonate. I can imagine the fun in the Dail or at an ICTU conference if a revolutionary marxist sneers and calls Gilmore or O’Connor a menshevik.Higgins and Boyd-Barrett made a real impression spoiling the day of abject cravenness to the EU overlords using a contemporary language.
The jibe about “secret subjective desires they may think they have in their hearts.” is unworthy. Whatever their faults about program and other weaknesses none of the component parts of ULA have hidden their socialism and their belief that only socialism on an international scale can solve the crisis for good.We have many disagreements and programmatic difficulties to sort out.But I would add that building unity and trust is up there as a very important task. Building unity in campaigns like the repudiate the debt and the referendum within and without ULA is critical The challenges are huge. But ULA has given a base of a nearly national organisation with 5 TDs in its leadership. This is one of the strongest formations in the EU and western Europe. But for sectarians (and I hope you are not there) it is yet another diversion.

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revolutionaryprogramme - May 11, 2011

“Are you saying that ULA or its component parts are telling lies?”

In terms of the left reformist programme presented at the election I think it was a lie to say that this was “the real alternative” if you know that it is socialism that is “the real alternative”.

“They may be mistaken and since I disagree with some parts of the programs of its components they certainly are, but telling lies, NO.”

The difference between a lie and a mistake in terms of political programme depends to a large degree on the subjective intention. I would say that a left social democrat would be mistaken in presenting their left social democratic programme as the answer to our problems as working people. However when someone who describes themselves as a revolutionary socialist presents a left social democratic programme as “the real alternative” what is it?

“So tell us how Trotsky was wrong to engage with left moving formations such as the ILP, POUM, SAP, etc. Do you think that individuals, groups, parts of parties will move in one jump to a full revolutionary program. You would have been an incredible canvasser, moving individual workers who want a fightback program to full revolutionary consciousness in one bound.”

I think Trotsky was right to engage with left moving formations but I certainly don’t think there is any evidence to suggest that in the course of that engagement Trotsky adapted his revolutionary programme in any way. In fact Trotsky dealt fairly directly with this issue in an article explaining the politics of the Transitional Program:

“We have repeated many times that the scientific character of our activity consists in the fact that we adapt our program not to political conjunctures or the thought or mood of the masses as this mood is today, but we adapt our program to the objective situation as it is represented by the economic class structure of society. The mentality can be backward; then the political task of the party is to bring the mentality into harmony with the objective facts, to make the workers understand the objective task. But we cannot adapt the program to the backward mentality of the workers, the mentality, the mood is a secondary factor — the prime factor is the objective situation. That is why we have heard these criticisms or these appreciations that some parts of the program do not conform to the situation.”
(‘Discussions With Trotsky: On the Transitional Program’, 7 June 1938)

I would also argue that there are important differences in what an immediate “fightback program” would consist of as a result of having either a reformist or a revolutionary perspective. This is particularly the case in regard to the question of building working class organisations separate from, and in opposition to, the institutions of capitalist rule.

“In a weak moment I looked at your suggested program. You mentioned an occupation in Waterford. To me it implied that only you had noticed this struggle. The SP, SWP et al have been promoting every type of fightback for eons. I would add that this struggle was a defensive one and that Waterford Glass is a shadow of its former self. There are many reasons for the sapping of the will to fight back. The most important one in my opinion is not social partnership but the defeat of the miners. In the aftermath of this defeat strike days collapsed. Social partnership was a desperate and craven response by ICTU et al. to this defeat. Like rabbits in the headlights they are mesmerised by the scale of the crisis and have collapsed in front of the bourgeois onslaught. But as Morgan Kelly predicted as it becomes obvious that the cuts are only making things even worse we will see a turn where more and more workers decide that surrender is not an option.”

The point is not that only I have noticed the Waterford occupation – that would be silly – but rather what lessons we should learn from that struggle and how that should be integrated into the programme we present to the working class. I think it is an example that can be used to get across some of the key ideas of revolutionary socialism and will be easily understood by militant workers in Ireland. All I am saying is that we should take advantage of that opportunity to do so. Maybe that can be done in a better way than how I have attempted to do it and if so then I’m more than happy to hear how. But at the very least the attempt to do so needs to be made.

I actually think we may well agree on a lot about the immediate campaigns and I look forward to working with you within the ULA in the fightback against the current attacks.

I think you are correct in seeing the defeat of the miners as being an important part of what led to the betrayal of Social Partnership.

“To relate to people you have to state things in language that is contemporary, using examples that resonate. I can imagine the fun in the Dail or at an ICTU conference if a revolutionary marxist sneers and calls Gilmore or O’Connor a menshevik. Higgins and Boyd-Barrett made a real impression spoiling the day of abject cravenness to the EU overlords using a contemporary language.”

I agree entirely about the use of language and contemporary examples. It is part of the skill of politics to get across the ideas of revolutionary socialism in a way that engages with the existing consciousness of militant workers. You say that you have read my programme. I would welcome any suggestions about how my use of language could be improved. But equally I would be interested in your comments on the CONTENT of what I have presented.

My disagreements with people in the discussion on this blog and elsewhere are over the CONTENT of the message being presented not the words and phrases being used.

The unfortunate reality is that NO attempt is being made by the ULA to get across the IDEA of the need to smash the capitalist state and replace the sham of parliamentary democracy with our own working class institutions of class rule. Without this any programme presented, even one with socialism as an explicit aim, is necessarily reformist.

“The jibe about “secret subjective desires they may think they have in their hearts.” is unworthy. Whatever their faults about program and other weaknesses none of the component parts of ULA have hidden their socialism and their belief that only socialism on an international scale can solve the crisis for good.”

Well there was in fact an open disagreement between the component parts of the ULA about the question of whether to advocate socialism in the election platform with the SP being forced to accept not including it as the price of keeping the bloc together. Kieran Allen’s forthright argument at the Cork membership drive meeting at the end of last month that the new party should be openly socialist might indicate that the SWP/PBPA have changed their view on this issue, though as his presentation directly contradicted the content of their leaflet being given out at the same meeting that is unclear.

You may think my phrase is unworthy. Maybe, but if so then I’d like to know how else you would describe people calling themselves “revolutionary socialists” while at the same time arguing that it is wrong to include any revolutionary component to the programme they present to the working class. We should all be judged not by the subjective labels we give ourselves but on the actual programme we present and put into practice in our concrete political activity – and on that basis the ULA electoral pact was left reformist. I would hope that the programme of the new party will not repeat that mistake.

“We have many disagreements and programmatic difficulties to sort out. But I would add that building unity and trust is up there as a very important task. Building unity in campaigns like the repudiate the debt and the referendum within and without ULA is critical The challenges are huge. But ULA has given a base of a nearly national organisation with 5 TDs in its leadership. This is one of the strongest formations in the EU and western Europe. But for sectarians (and I hope you are not there) it is yet another diversion.”

I am already an active, and non-sectarian, participant in the campaigns of the workers’ movement against the attacks and I will be an active, and non-sectarian, participant in the process towards creating a new workers’ party both in terms of the new organisation’s involvement in those struggles and in the discussion and debate about what a socialist programme should entail.

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70. another-anon - May 11, 2011

@ Rev Programme:

“The politics of reform have plenty of advocates and it is not the job of revolutionary socialists to put forward the half-baked lies of social democracy. ”

But is IS the job of revolutionary socialists to take seats in the Dáil?

The ULA have five seats in a social democratic parliament, BUT they only took those seats because they are ‘revolutionaries’.

The half a million euro a year in funding which comes their way as a result of the five seats is a bit of a bonus of course.

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Doloras LaPicho - May 11, 2011

Wait, the Dáil is a social-democratic parliament? Since when?

The Bolsheviks took seats in the Tsarist parliament, of course, to promote themselves and their programme. I wonder what your problem with that is.

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revolutionaryprogramme - May 11, 2011

Just to be clear.

The Dáil is an institution of capitalist rule.

The socialist transformation of society will not occur through passing an act in the Dáil. Reforms of capitalism can occur through passing acts in the Dáil.

The main job of revolutionary socialists is building a party capable of leading the wider workers’ movement to overthrow capitalism. How to relate to the Dáil is a secondary and subordinate part of that job.

Revolutionary socialists stand in elections to test the amount of support for their revolutionary programme within the workers’ movement and to use the election process as a platform for presenting that revolutionary programme to wider layers of workers than might be usually possible. If elected they use this capitalist institution as a platform for further spreading the revolutionary programme and supporting struggles of the workers’ movement outside parliament. And their salaries are a welcome bonus if used to support the struggles of the workers’ movement.

My problem with the ULA election campaign wasn’t with them standing per se but rather that it wasn’t done on the basis of promoting a revolutionary programme – http://www.bolshevik.org/Leaflets/2011IrishElection.html

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revolutionaryprogramme - May 11, 2011

I don’t think that the Dáil is a social-democratic parliament.

My concern is that the ULA TDs are presenting a left social democratic, rather than revolutionary socialist, programme within the Dáil.

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LeftAtTheCross - May 11, 2011

“test the amount of support for their revolutionary programme within the workers’ movement”

But isn’t the point that really there isn’t much of a workers’ movement at all at this stage. Maybe there’s a lot of hair splitting going on here but I think to many people in society, and even on the broad Left, the prospect of dual power or whatever is not an immediate one, and in the meantime there’s useful work to be done both inside and outside the bounds of the existing political structures. Ok, you can debate until the cows come home whether it’s useful or not, a gain or a diversion. I appreciate that you’re pitching your position here as the conscience of the revolutionary Left to some extent, a standard against which we should be measuring our positions, but I’m not sure you’re going to get much traction with that approach. Great if you do manage to single handedly accelerate the advent of the revolution, but I wouldn’t go holding my breath just yet.

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revolutionaryprogramme - May 11, 2011

Well the workers’ movement still exists but of course it is extremely weak both in terms of organisation and political programme.

I am merely presenting what I believe is the necessary programme for getting from here to socialism.

I believe that means integrating the tactics and strategy needed to fight back against the immediate attacks as part of a coherent overall programme for socialism that includes the difficult questions of what to do about state and governmental power.

Having said that I agree that getting political movement by any of us is unlikely to occur just in the context of intellectual argument. This is far more likely to occur in the context of the real struggles confronting our class as our different perspectives are put to the test – but even then it will only be on the basis of having the alternative tactics and strategies openly presented and debated that informed choices will be able to be made.

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71. another-anon - May 11, 2011

did you see Pearse Doherty on Vincent Browne last night? Informed, articulate, coherent, rational.

He’ll never win over the working class that way.

Now, as I have no desire to stand here while the cedarlounge trolls throw provo herrings at me purely for pointing out that, when it comes to credibility and coherence, Pearse Doherty is trumping the ULA every single time, I won’t be back for the rest of the day.

[That's not addressed to yourself, rev programme, as you've been nothing but respectful here]

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LeftAtTheCross - May 11, 2011

AA, I’m no SF fan but I do agree that Doherty is a smooth performer. I didn’t see him last night so I can’t comment on his content. The inter-oppositional competition thing is a bit tiresome. SF and ULA have different positions, individuals within each have different strengths and weaknesses, it’s a broad Left opposition even if it doesn’t consider itself to be such. Not saying that active co-operation is necessary, but as long as both keep up the attack on the gov’t at least they’re fighting battles against a common enemy.

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revolutionaryprogramme - May 11, 2011

PD certainly is a very accomplished politician. I didn’t see VB last night – anyone able to give a summary of the content of what he had to say?

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72. Jim Monaghan - May 11, 2011

A general note on rhetoric.
Smash the bourgeois state” etc. While revolutionary socialists would obviously be in favour of a new state where there is an end to the dictatorship of capital, I feel we must use a different language where we emphasise democracy.(and by democracy I mean where people have a real say.) Alas, because of the deformations in the Soviet bloc, most people equate smashing the state with the imposition of a dictatorship. Steering a line where we question the current situation where we are told we must operate within a capitalist system and advocating a leap into what for most people is the dark and where the experience was something which turned out to be worse.While we may see through the sham of the Dail, ordinary people feel that what limited say they have every 4/5 years might disappear as a self appointed elite decide on our behalf. I remember FF attempts to get rid of PR because they saw opposition as a nuisance and where they were defeated because FF voters preferred PR and did not trust FF that much.Again we live within the constraints of what went before and are not starting from an ideal position.
This to me rhymes with the call for a referendum. If our democracy is to be more than a County Council we should have a say in this the most important thing affecting our lives.Like Redmond before an unrepresentative government sold our sovereignty. The current government accepts this sale. This should be challenged on democratic grounds at least.

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Pope Epopt - May 11, 2011

+5 on rhetoric and referendum (which should be combined with a debt audit so we’d know what we’re voting on). A radical demand for thorough democritisation is intrinsically anti-capitalist because the latter can only take an increasingly thin veneer of it.

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revolutionaryprogramme - May 11, 2011

I also agree on rhetoric.

But at the same time we need to think carefully about the political content of whatever slogans and demands we come forward with. They need to not only deal with the immediate questions but be consistent with our longer term goal of socialist transformation of society.

I am therefore a bit wary about calls for democratisation as they can quite often be interpreted as simply calls for reform of the existing structures of capitalism. To point towards socialism I think they need to be directly linked to the building of alternative forms of direct participatory democracy along the workers’ council model.

In terms of coming up with demands which point towards the need to “smash the bourgeois state” I think using examples like Waterford to call for self-defence guards type bodies can be very useful.

To the extent that we are able to build a movement that can even just pose the possibility of halting, let alone go forward to push back, the current attacks we are going to be immediately confronted with the question of the repressive apparatus of the capitalist state. This is not some abstract question related to future times of revolutionary upheaval but one that is of immediate importance if we really believe in the new party being an organisation of struggle.

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LeftAtTheCross - May 11, 2011

“In terms of coming up with demands which point towards the need to “smash the bourgeois state” I think using examples like Waterford to call for self-defence guards type bodies can be very useful. “

Well I hope that hostory will prove me wrong on this one, but if you seriously believe that any sizeable cohort of the population in this state, or indeed even a decent sized minority within the ULA, or any section of the broad Left, is about to support a workers’ self-defence organisation then I’m afraid you’re not living in the same world as the rest of us. I’m not saying that it can’t ever happen, but this isn’t 1913, it’s not 1916, it’s not 1917, and although the material circumstances of the vast majority of the population are deteriorating, and although the collapses of capitalism / climate / resources are upon us to vary degrees I’d still put my worthless few bob on a slow progression leftwards via electoral channels as being a better bet for the next few years at least. And I’d further bet that the mass ULA membership might take a similar view. Not saying that the longer-term revolutionary trajectory is irrelevant, just that a mass membership electoral party such as seems to be proposed by the ULA is unlikely to gain much of a mass membership in the first place if it prioritises revolution as a short-term goal, or uses revolutionary rhetoric in its interaction with the mainstream media.

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revolutionaryprogramme - May 11, 2011

This isn’t about rhetoric – if the term “self-defence guards” doesn’t work then I’m sure we can come up with something that does.

But it seems to me that if the ULA is serious about being “an organisation of struggle” with any TDs and councillors only there to support that struggle, as the speakers at the Cork membership drive meeting all firmly argued, then this is of direct and immediate relevance.

Of course if being “an organisation of struggle” is just meaningless rhetoric for public meetings and it is really all just about electoralism then I guess my concerns are misplaced. But that would also make the ULA of not much use to Irish working people.

It is clear that the pain of the last couple of years is nothing compared to what they are preparing to put us through. Unless we build organisations that can fight then we are well and truly f***ed. I remain optimistic that the ULA party project can be part of that but to do so it will need to grasp the nettle of what militant class struggle will mean.

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73. Jim Monaghan - May 11, 2011

“self-defence guards”
I find this vaguely ultraleft. If we had a 1913 type situation, then it would come into it’s own. But in current circumstances it reeks of ultraleftism (yes, I am not enthusiastic about it). We defend the right of workers and communities to use whatever methods of defense they choose. E.g. the occupations in Waterford Glass.But this is connected to the situation as it develops. Taken out of a real context it is just rhetoric.Rhetoric that can allow the state to use leglisation to ban legitimate political activity.We are not in February to October 1917 in Russia type situation, at least not yet.There is a sort of outlefting everyone else on the left with this.
I am not saying that there is an excuse for not backing militant activity. I remember when the binmen were on strike and they led by their union official tackled scabs on Moore St. I thought it was exemplary action. Incidentally the Official concerned was in the CP.The SP in the water campaign definitely led activities preventing people being deprived of water.
The methods used by workers will vary. Rushing it forward outside it’s natural development can lead to isolation.It would worry me as well if calls like this lead to groups substituting themselves for the activity of the masses. The history of Irish Republicanism is awash with examples like this, where they discouraged activity of the masses on the grounds this was the preserve of the army.
Better an analysis on what stage we are at and what is the appropriate type of response there should be to the situation.
I cannot remember the quote but I think Trotsky stated something about ultraleftism being connected with distance from the real struggles of the class.

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make do and mend - May 11, 2011

+1 This journey has only begun. Circumstances are always unique to the era in which we live.

I do detect a shift in the capitalist response/mood to this crisis than to previous ones. Middle-class attitudes are hardening ideologically speaking. They want to protect their share of what seems like a diminishing resource pie and they also need to appease the wealthy to keep their jobs. The uber wealthy are happy to keep all workers at each other’s necks.

I’m beginning to think that we don’t have to worry about transforming the situation for labour, capitalism is doing an admirable job already. In order for Labour to finally win a revolution, we’re going to have to learn alot of lessons and, if history is anything to go by, we’re going to have to learn from our mistakes as we go along. We certainly should listen to people who’ve been there before and learn from their experiencea. We really can’t afford to make the same old mistakes.

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LeftAtTheCross - May 11, 2011

“I’m beginning to think that we don’t have to worry about transforming the situation for labour, capitalism is doing an admirable job already.”

Digging its own grave etc.

“We certainly should listen to people who’ve been there before and learn from their experiencea. We really can’t afford to make the same old mistakes.”

The point made somewhere about not following the guy coming down off the mountain with the stone tablets detailing the one true path to socialism is very valid also.

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revolutionaryprogramme - May 11, 2011

So we wait until they attack us before we dare to start telling the working class the truth about the capitalist repressive state apparatus and the need to defend ourselves when we fight back?

As if this is all new and we have nothing to learn from history. As if it might not happen this time and the Irish bourgeoisie will not use force against us if we resist their plans. As if the repeated violence against the protesters in Rossport, or the attack on the student demonstrators in Dublin, or the eviction of the Thomas Cooke workers had never happened…

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make do and mend - May 12, 2011

Whist, I’m not suggesting passivity by any means. And I certainly didn’t suggest that current events are irrelevant. Quite the opposite as I posted above.

The gist of my post was that people like Jim Monaghan, WBS and quite a few other posters have backgrounds, experiences and insights which offer value. I might not always agree with their viewpoints, but I respect them enough to incorporate their views into my own outlook.

I’ve learnt as much about socialism from older Russian, Polish and other Eastern emigrés as I’ve done from my own experiences or readings. Indeed, I always keep up with what the capitalistas are thinking.

As modern day Ireland evolves, taking into account the contortions capitalists everywhere are going through in order to prop up their shite system, we should seek to avoid big mistakes of the past while incorporating original thinking and methods given our unique situation today. It also pays to keep an eye open to EU socialist development as well.

best

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revolutionaryprogramme - May 12, 2011

make do and mend,

I can agree with your general philosophy of learning all the time and being open to the experience of the different trends within the socialist tradition – but only to a certain degree.

The reality is that there are some ideas held by some socialists which are in direct contradiction with the views held by other socialists and are of such strategic importance that they cannot be incorporated into a single coherent outlook. In a general sense these are the fault lines in the wider socialist movement between the reformist and revolutionary roads.

For instance there are socialists who believe that the primary tool for transforming society will be the existing parliamentary structures – as codified within the wider Trotskyist tradition as passing an “Enabling Act”.

This is in direct contradiction to those socialists who see the primary tool for transforming society as being workers’ council type organisations.

There are socialists who believe that the repressive apparatus of the capitalist state can be made to work in the interests of working people through some kind of “community control”.

This is in direct contradiction to those socialists who understand that the capitalist state needs to be “smashed” (to use Lenin’s famous, and controversial, term) and replaced by new organs of proletarian state power.

There are socialists who believe that it is possible to make political blocs with the “progressive bourgeoisie” in some kind of stagist approach to transforming society.

This is in direct contradiction to those socialists who believe in the need for working class independence and oppose participation in “popular fronts”.

There are socialists who believe that it is possible to build variants of “socialism in one country” and have at best a federalist approach to organising with other socialists around the world.

This is in direct contradiction to those socialists who see concrete internationalism as integral to the whole project.

These are all core questions of socialist politics which affect not only long term perspectives but also how we participate in the immediate struggles.

This is not to argue that these different traditions can’t work together in the immediate campaigns against the attacks, indeed I would argue that it is essential that they do so wherever it is possible on a principled basis. But I am unable to see how they could be incorporated into a single coherent programme – choices will have to be made.

All these different traditions, are present in the Irish left and to the extent the project for a new workers’ party takes on a social reality it will be a site for political struggle between these contending ideas. The new party will need to make choices on these fault lines that run through the socialist movement as it decides on its programme.

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revolutionaryprogramme - May 12, 2011

This is also not to argue for a doctrinaire approach and a refusal to make any compromises in terms of the programme but we need to realise that there are some strategic questions on which compromise is not possible.

This may be seen by some as me bringing my personal stone tablets down the mountain but I would argue that all this represents is the reality that the history of the wider socialist movement has created different stone tablets on these core questions.

All of us will have to choose which set of stone tablets we choose to take as the general template for creating the parchments of propaganda for the current time and space we find ourselves in.

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LeftAtTheCross - May 12, 2011

RP, I should clarify that I wasn’t having a go at you with the stone tablets remark by the way. Your arguments here are well made and informative and are made without negativity. People may not agree with your positions but your contribution to the debate is welcome. Your point about preconcieved formulae holds in every direction of course, as you have pointed out.

One thing I would say about the logic of your arguments is that often decisions simply aren’t made on the basis of rationality. You can discount that as being unscientific or whatever but it is a reality. This fgoes back to the point about Higgins et al on the VB show. Sometimes it’s more about the mood music than the lyrics if you know what I mean. So while you may feel that the way to win the revolution is through rational argument, there are other equally useful approaches and mechanisms which need to be employed to win over the masses so to speak. One size doesn’t fit all. I know I’m full of psychobabble and cliche here but I stick to my guns that your approach is simply too narrow for the times we’re in at the moment.

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revolutionaryprogramme - May 12, 2011

I actually agree entirely with your points about how consciousness changes.

I know for myself that coming to an understanding of the role of the capitalist state wasn’t as a result of being convinced by a rational argument but rather my concrete experience of confrontations with the police during the 1981 South African rugby tour in New Zeland which resulted in mass protest, up to and including full-on riots at the last couple of games.

Of course that only transformed my liberal illusions in the class-neutral role of the police into a very crude anti-capitalism. It took a few years of political discussion and reading (Lenin’s State and Revolution in particular making a lot of sense to me) before I had it integrated into anything approaching a communist understanding.

However I know that on other political questions it has been the strength of purely rational argument that has changed my mind – this would be the case as regards my understanding of the national question for instance.

I find that it is only by putting my current understanding to the stress of both political argument and where possible concrete experience that I can refine it and even sometimes make significant changes to it.

Its also true that as I am far from having the intellect or skills of a Marxist theoretician the bulk of my political activity actually involves concrete organising in united front type campaigns. To the extent I have had success in engaging with my fellow working class militants and changing their, and my, political consciousness it has usually tended to be as much about having developed trust and confidence in each other through that joint activity as it has been about the abstract content of my ideas.

But I also believe that without my having openly presented my political perspective those political discussions would not have taken place or at least they would have been much less substantive.

To the extent the discussions on this blog play any role in changing the minds of any of the participants it will probably only actually be manifest in the context of the concrete decisions and activity that the ULA engages in.

I’d also agree that many political decisions aren’t made by people on the basis of applying rational constructs to the issue confronting them. However that is the not the approach Marxists aspire to. We should be trying to be as rational and consistent in our decision making processes as possible as part of a programme that integrates all aspects into a coherent whole. Which is not to say that I, or anyone else, actually achieves that aspiration but surely it is what we should aim for.

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Jim Monaghan - May 12, 2011

There is a long history of active resistance in this country and I would include the Concerned Parents in this. But it arises from the concrete situation and not from mantras.
We also have a history of interventions from without. E.G. the Black Bloc.I would lump in the activities of dissident Republican groups who operate without any mandate from even the smallest nationalist ghetto.Oh, they claim a mandate from an elected Dail, all of whose members are dead.
These people do not build but in essence sneer at those who build as their activity is at a higher level. A sort of Zorros of the struggle. You can stay at home they will do it for you. All they do is give ammunition to the forces of repression.We have to be careful. In the sense of where the gutter press has tried to associate the Rossport people with every scare story they can find or invent.
On a personal note I do not like those who throw stones from a safe distance over my head and have successfully fled while I collect a baton on the head.
I am sure you mean disciplined people who answer to the mass movement whether a strike committee or other democratic group.But I hope you can see how this sort of rhetoric can be used and misused.
I like Parnell’s statement on the statue.I paraphrase. It is not for us to set a bound to the march of a nation or indeed the class. The trick is to connect things to the actual struggle of the class not to abstractions which may arise.

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DublinDilettante - May 12, 2011

That’s some paraphrase, Jim! The great thing about Parnell’s quote is that it reads just as neatly as an apologia for imperialism, demonstrating that all strains of nationalism as ultimately just the same sickness.

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revolutionaryprogramme - May 12, 2011

Of course any militant slogans can be misused by those would like to substitute for the mass organisations of the working class. I am certainly not advocating any such substitutionalism as I thought was clear from my posts.

I agree that “The trick is to connect things to the actual struggle of the class not to abstractions which may arise.”

But my point is that the “actual struggle of the class” includes the attacks on the protestors in Rossport & the Dublin students, the eviction of the Thomas Cooke workers, the fight with the private security in Waterford. This is not an abstract question.

I can appreciate the need to be careful about how we raise this kind of thing given the history of this Ireland. For instance it leads to the high-profile warnings by the state that known republicans, anarchists and other trouble makers are being watched in the run-up to the Queen’s visit – but to a certain extent that also vindicates my underlying point that we do need to raise it somehow.

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74. Jim Monaghan - May 12, 2011

All slogans are subject to misuse, at least capable of same

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75. revolutionaryprogramme - May 25, 2011
76. revolutionaryprogramme - May 25, 2011
revolutionaryprogramme - May 25, 2011

People may also be interested in the political motivation for our proposals that Anne and I included with the motion:

http://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/2011/05/25/report-on-cork-ula-branch-meeting-on-24-may/#comments

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77. D_D - May 25, 2011

Public Meeting: ULA launch in Dublin Central

‘The alternative to bank bail outs and cutbacks’

Public Meeting

8 pm, Monday 30th May 2011,
Teachers’ Club, 36, Parnell Square West, Dublin, 1.

Speakers:

Paul Murphy MEP, Socialist Party
Joan Collins TD, People Before Profit Alliance
Colm Stephens, People Before Profit Alliance

Organised by United Left Alliance

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revolutionaryprogramme - May 25, 2011

Have you had a branch meeting yet or is the plan to recruit for that from this public meeting?

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D_D - May 25, 2011

No, we haven’t had a Branch meeting yet. I’m not clear what the plan is but I expect it will be proposed to establish a Branch and to invite all present to join.

There is a Dublin Central PBPA group. Colm Stephens is doing a lot of work for the meeting.

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78. Jim Monaghan - May 25, 2011

I have to say I am a bit disappointed about the conference format. The workshops should be in the morning. There should be more space for discussion. Maybe there is an intention to bed it in and have a “real” conference in the Autumn. Hopefully so.
I go along with the steering committee addition. I would go for 3 or more, but there is a Realpolitic here where the founders are primus intra pares.
I know it is a bit contentious but we should discuss the North even if we agree to shelve a decision until later. All the founders on paper believe in a United Socialist Ireland as part of a United Socialist States of Europe (I think).
20 at a Cork branch meeting. Is this good or bad? I don’t know but would worry about losing momentum.
I have attended one meeting of PbP in Dun Laoghaire. I missed the ULA launch and do not know if is has a formal presence.
A general note. A broad party needs to be open to those whose level of activity will not be that of the existing far left parties. Not the paper membership of the LP but neither that of the 5 nights a week of the far left, but something in between.
I would like organised ULAs in each trade union and in the case of SIPTU each branch.I think we have the numbers for it.Groups on culture and other things could attract and give a focus to potential members.
An ULA in the solidarity movements would be good.
I think the status and even existence of rival fronts maintained by the twins (SP and SWP) should be examined. I think talks should be able to resolve competition. I don’t want competing fronts on say referendums etc.
Sorry I am being very prescriptive and being retired mainly and not the greatest activist I could see how this could come across as an attempt at being Moses.The ball is definitely with the founder groups and I hope they carry it well.

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79. ULA: What kind of party do we need? « Tomás Ó Flatharta - June 20, 2011

[...] 11. On The Cedar Lounge Revolution blogsite, which is frequented by a wide range of knowledgeable leftists, there is a long discussion on Building the ULA: http://cedarlounge.wordpress.com/2011/04/28/building-the-ula/#comment-97236 [...]

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80. revolutionaryprogramme - June 20, 2011

See http://weareragbags.wordpress.com/ for a proposal to set up an email list for non-affiliated members of the ULA.

I’m supporting this initiative and would encourage all other non-affiliated members to contact weareragbags@gmail.com to be added to the email list.

I’m looking forward to meeting the comrade who has taken this initiative at the national forum on the weekend.

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81. HAL - June 21, 2011

To ULA or not to ULA that is the question.Recently while driving through Finglas I seen posters advertising a Socialist Party anti cuts meeting on a Thursday in a certain pub ,only further down the road to see an anti cuts meeting organised by the SWP in the same pub on the Monday.WTF.Neither mention the ULA on their posters that I could see.

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revolutionaryprogramme - June 21, 2011

Well to be fair to the the SP & SWP that is consistent with their understanding of the ULA as an alliance.

The question of when & how to start the transformation from alliance towards the creation of a new party is one that will be among the most important discussions at the national forum this coming Saturday.

It seems a lot will depend on the strength of the non-affiliated members as the SP & SWP seem stuck in the alliance phase and unwilling to take any steps in that direction (if my experience in Cork is anything to go by – http://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/2011/06/16/%E2%80%9Cthe-ula-is-not-an-organisation%E2%80%9D-says-sp-leader/).

So I’d say come to the national forum in Dublin on Saturday and talk to people, especially independents, and see if you can be convinced to be part of this process of transformation. The more independents making the case for starting to make real steps in the direction of a party the more chance we have of making it real.

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Gerry Barnes - June 21, 2011

A poster has indicated that he would not be able/willing to match the high level of activism that some far left groups demand of members. That raises an important point about personal commitment. Some people have intense day jobs and family commitments. Some individuals also don’t aspire to mental as well as physical frenetic activity for its own sake. The Workers Party in its heyday (1970s onwards) insisted on a minimum of one evening per week of ‘party activity’ (which could involve anything from attending a talk to leafleting or paper selling) and many members contributed more than that requirement. Could we have a separate article and thread devoted to this topic please?

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LeftAtTheCross - June 21, 2011

I can’t speak for other groups, but just to say that in my experience the WP has moved on from that expectation and recognises the reality of other commitments in people’s lives. There are core groups of full-time committed activists who give their all to the party, and it would be better if there were more of course, but the rest of us do what we can when we can, and that’s ok too.

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82. Jim Monaghan - June 21, 2011

ULA is indeed a fragile thing. Unfortunately sectarian practices which stem in part from a messianic view of the Leninist party is still a problem. The duty of everyone both inside and outside the 2 big blocs is to keep it together and minimise the disruptions. To act as a buffer. Hopefully if the ULA grows and begins to make an impact in its own right then it will be more and more difficult for sectarian practices.
In a gentle manner we should say to the big groupings when to do an initiative why could this not be done under the ULA banner.
Eg I attended a meeting on the Arab and Spanish revolt in Dun L organised by the SWP. It could easily have been done under the ULA banner. It would not have been a barrier to the SWP making a recruitment pitch.I am sure similar examples are all over the country.Marching separately should be reserved for where there are differences.
Coaxing, persuading, chastising and keeping in friendly is where we are at.Praising the positive. I think the Dail initiative on the low paid is exemplary.Our common enemies would like a split and the collapse of the ULA. ULA is the real problem for the Labour party. They can cope with sects even big ones.

Membership criteria. Keep in loose.I work in an antiwar alliance. A meeting once a month is enough. the left has a lot of meeting junkies who are distanced from real people as they do not have lives or other responsibilities. Many want to mobilise when there is something real to do. Not on a permanent basis. The country is riddled with burnt out ex-lefties. Bitter at their lost lives. ULA needs to be a party which has ordinary people not just zealots.I remember with horror one sect which decided in a previous crisis that it was like Germany 1931 and we had 18 months to organise a party or the fascist would mobilise and win.

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revolutionaryprogramme - June 21, 2011

Hmmm – so you think a party that meets more than once a month is only fit for zealots?

I am interested in what kind of impact you think a party with such an infrequent meeting schedule could have on the class struggle given the massive tasks confronting us, even just in terms of being an active part of the movement to defend ourselves from the current attacks let alone be able to pose the question of the socialist transformation of society.

I would imagine that there would actually be quite a bit of activity involved in any party that sought to be an organic part of the movement to defend our class from the attacks.

For instance the Cork branch has decided on weekly activities over the next month or so and this is the supposed slow period of the summer and before the expected upsurge in class struggle as we get closer to the budget.

How do you think decisions in an organisation with only monthly meetings but at least weekly activity would be made and how would this equate to being “membership-led” in any useful sense of the term?

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Jim Monaghan - June 21, 2011

People are active in the struggle in lots of ways. Their trade unions for a start. ULA should attract activists from a range of partial struggles. From Palestine to saving our buses.I think that a well organised meeting once a month to coordinate and discuss is sufficient. I would like the odd day school where we could attempt to deepen our agreements about program etc.When the struggle heats up there would be a natural momentum to increase activity. The Dublin West electoral campaign would be one. This is an excellent opportunity to challenge the tweedleedum/dee of the Dail. I think Kate Coppinger has a good chance of winning. A shock to the newish bourgeois order.A loss by FF/FG/Labour towards the far left would show that workers are open to revolutionary politics and are thinking of a fightback.
I would like to think that we could accommodate say parent/s with kids and other commitments.
Meanwhile my main concern is helping keep the ULA alive.

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Mark P - June 21, 2011

Ruth Coppinger presumably, Jim?

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Joe - June 22, 2011

“The country is riddled with burnt out ex-lefties. Bitter at their lost lives.”
Here Jim. Leave me out of this discussion please.

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Jim Monaghan - June 22, 2011

Hi Joe,
You are hereby excused. I leave you to the mercy of the EU and the IMF.
Regards

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83. Mark P - June 21, 2011

The first step for the ULA was simply to exist, to come together in the first place.

The second step is the creation of solid structures, starting with branches. That is happening at the moment. Further structures will also have to be developed from the branches up.

Everyone in the ULA agrees with the goal of creating a new working class party. But at the moment, the task in front of us is to build a stronger alliance, one with a participative atmosphere, a culture of discussion and debate and a real involvement in the major struggles against austerity which will arise in the next period. Building such an alliance will move us much closer to being able to launch a new party, along with new activists who will step forward to oppose cuts, oppose water taxes and to protect their jobs and pay and conditions.

I tend to agree with Jim that monthly branch meetings are a reasonable starting point, as long as they don’t become fixed in stone as the only option. If organisational decisions need to be taken in between, elect a branch committee to take those decisions. If, on the other hand, major struggles erupt or the pace of work goes up considerably, then there should be no problem having more frequent meetings to cope with that.

As far as holding ULA meetings or affiliate meetings goes, there is a balance to be struck. The Socialist Party and People Before Profit (and the SWP and whoever else) have every right to hold their own meetings and put forward their own distinctive views. It should be remembered that over the last few months, vastly more ULA public meetings have been held nationwide than there have been public meetings of not just all affiliates put together but of every other left group in Ireland put together and added to those of the affiliates.

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revolutionaryprogramme - June 21, 2011

Well we will see what happens I guess but building “a participative atmosphere, a culture of discussion and debate and a real involvement in the major struggles against austerity which will arise in the next period” was far from what was on display at the Cork branch meeting.

Anne and I brought along a guy from Cobh who had been out campaigning for Mick Barry a couple of times during the election and we had been pretty sure we would get him to join but he was completely turned off by what he saw at the meeting and now doesn’t want to join, which is a real shame.

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Mark P - June 21, 2011

I can imagine no situation short of the ULA applying for affiliation to the IBT which wouldn’t result in you complaining however.

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revolutionaryprogramme - June 21, 2011

Actually all I wanted was the terribly outrageous idea of fortnighly brahch meetings and an email list to keep everyone in the loop, instead of just the SP & SWP “zealots” who meet every week and will be having regular discussions about the ULA that are not open to the independents.

The reality is that it is not just me who is unhappy with the way things are going forward, or not going forward to be more accurate. The discussion at the national forum on this issue will be very interesting.

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Mark P - June 22, 2011

I don’t consider a branch email list to be a shocking idea any more than I consider not having a branch email list to be a shocking idea. I can see why having to respond to a regular stream of ‘helpful” critiques from you and Anne wouldn’t be the most appealing prospect for people who, unlike myself, have better things to be doing.

Nor did I call anybody a zealot.

The establishment of a branch structure will allow everyone to hear what is going on nationally in the organisation, whether they are members of affiliated groups or not. That’s one of the many reasons why getting branches going is important.

On what basis are you describing youself as an “independent”, by the way?

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revolutionaryprogramme - June 22, 2011

Well you might want to talk to Stephen Boyd because he opposed the idea of email lists as a bad idea in general.

The “zealot” comment was made by Jim as part of his justification for opposing having meetings more often than monthly – I was being ironic by just pointing out that the core people in forming the ULA were able to cope with a far higher level of regular activity.

But it is interesting what your concern is. You have “better things to do” than listen to people who might have different ideas than you contributing those ideas – that is exactly the reaction we got at the Cork branch meeting.

What kind of political culture are you projecting here – one that is democratic and inclusive “with a participative atmosphere, a culture of discussion and debate”? The reality of an organisation that was reallly like that is we will all have to listen to views we don’t necessarily agree with. It isn’t an irritant that we should be doing all we can to stop but a necessary part of building the organsiation you say you want the ULA to be.

And it isn’t just a matter of turning up at a monthly branch meeting to hear a report of what is going on nationally in the organisation. We havehave been told that the ULA will be a membership-led organisation. That implies an active membership with real input into the decision making processes, not passively hearing what has been decided elsewhere

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revolutionaryprogramme - June 22, 2011

Oh, and the use of “independent” refers to those of us ULA members not in any of the constituent groups. The other term sometimes used to describe us is “non-affiliated”.

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revolutionaryprogramme - June 22, 2011

non-aligned is also sometimes used – but all three terms refer to the same thing in the context of ULA membership

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Mark P - June 22, 2011

I think that perhaps, revprogramme, that you misread my response.

I didn’t claim that I had better things to do than to respond to a stream of lengthy “helpful” critiques from you. Clearly, I don’t!

People, like Mick Barry may however with some justification feel that they didn’t set up a local ULA branch so as to get involved in an endless series of email polemics with two hardened supporters of two different tiny (as in one supporter in Ireland) political tendencies. And I think it can be taken for granted that this is what they assumed you and Anne were trying to engineer. Maybe they were doing you a disservice, but to be blunt about it, I suspect that they were not.

Not wanting to get sucked into such a situation by people whose regular internet screeds they would never respond to outside of the context of the ULA seems perfectly reasonable to me.

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revolutionaryprogramme - June 22, 2011

You are right I did misread your comment but the political point remains valid.

You seem to be saying that email lists should only be allowed in branches where there are members with strong views which don’t conincide with those of the SP/SWP.

To the extent that I, or Anne, or anyone else for that matter was to abuse an email list then that would have to be dealt with by the branch just as people in meetings who don’t listen and continually butt in have to be dealt with. But to say IN ADVANCE that because some individuals have strong views that therefore there shouldn’t be the basic democratic (in 2011 campaigns and organisations) forum of an email list because it MIGHT be abused is at best paranoid and at worst a bureaucratic excuse to try to limit the influence of political critics from the left.

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revolutionaryprogramme - June 22, 2011

That should be:

“You seem to be saying that email lists should only be allowed in branches where there aren’t members with strong views which don’t conincide with those of the SP/SWP.”

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84. Jim Monaghan - June 22, 2011

http://tomasoflatharta.com/2011/06/22/ula-what-kind-of-party-do-we-need-2/

Des Derwin, articulate as always. Des is one of those independents (and independent in thought) who I have a lot of respect for. The presence of people like him and Eddie Conlon on an ULA National Committee would do a lot to push the ULA gently in the right direction. They would act in my opinion as a buffer between the big blocs, avoiding petty disagreements turning into something nasty.
There are others. My opinion is that the most important thing is to get the ULA to function and to avoid sectarianism within and without. This would allow for the development of a party and program.

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85. D_D - June 22, 2011

Thanks Jim. But I’m not angling for the job. Or for the Park! :)

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86. Jim Monaghan - June 22, 2011

Pity we do not have 20 TDs for a nomination. Think of calling for a referendum on the bailouts so-called.Yourself and Kieran Allen (I forget the trailblazer from Waterfords name) showed that the left could give the bureaucrats a run for their money in SIPTU elections.A united left challenge in the future could be interesting. ULA should be taking an interest in these.

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Chet Carter - June 22, 2011

Jim, is the idea of SF, ULA and a couple of other leftish Independents backing an anti-bank bailout a non-runner?

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sonofstan - June 22, 2011

SF being courted by that joker O’Dowd.

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Jim Monaghan - June 22, 2011

A utopian dream. Alas, SF wants to be mainstream.Imagine them and FF backing the same candidate. Talk about lemmings and turkeys voting for Christmas.They should be competing with ULA on radicalism instead of trying to appear moderate.

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que - June 27, 2011

Jim,

How can SF be reasonably expected to compete with the ula.

Is there genuinely an opportunity for both parties to occupy the same space and hunt the same game.

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87. Captain Rock - June 22, 2011

(Carol Ann Duggan was the Waterford SIPTU candidate Jim). If SF do back O’Dowd any of their members with a hint of socialist politics should be disgusted. An utter careerist, ego-maniac, conservative, reactionary fuck with delusions of grandour. Funny piece on him in the Irish Times today.

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sonofstan - June 22, 2011

All these presidential hopefuls waving their CVs around…..it’s like those 3,000 applications for Christmas work in M&S, a terrible reflection on the employment situation in the country. Last time, at the height of the boom, no one else wanted the gig.

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Jim Monaghan - June 22, 2011

Great woman. She showed what could be done. Mea culpa for not remembering her name. Age.In each union we should be aiming to put the bureaucrats under pressure.

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WorldbyStorm - June 22, 2011

Is O’Dowd reactionary? Not disputing it, just wondering in what way – or any more so than many right of centre people?

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88. Captain Rock - June 22, 2011
Captain Rock - June 22, 2011

Probably no more reactionary than most right-wingers I suppose. I hold my hands up- I don’t like him or trust him. He wrote a very snide article on Irish neutrality when the Iraq war started. He then changed his tune when American opinion and Hilary Clinton in particular, became more critical. He likes to be close to power.

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que - June 27, 2011

read one of his articles and he sure likes to drop names and let you know he is in there – connected with the big folks.

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89. andy - June 22, 2011

Few points. At other ULA meetings around the country, prospective members had their emails and numbers taken. This is very basic organisation and should have happened in Cork. If the intention for some was endless, pointless polemics then they should have simply been told it was not the appropriate mechanism to address their concerns. But after getting people to a meeting, contact details should have been taken and people given a follow up email/text a few weeks later.

On the ULA conference itself. Was a bit disappointed with the conference outline myself, but for different reasons. I think it is scattered. I don’t really see the point of the workshops at this point, never mind on such a wide range of issues. It seems like oh-too-typical lefty chatter to me with no end result afterwards. I would have liked a conference built solely around one of the discussion topics viz. how we are going to build the party, what type party we need etcetc longterm. The aim should always be concrete advances at this point. I don’t want to debate theory, I don’t want to talk about every issue under the sun, the conference should be about organisation IMO.

Education and debate have their place. But I think breaking down the day around the central issue would have been better at this point.

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revolutionaryprogramme - June 22, 2011

Our names and numbers were taken in Cork but strangely the notice of the meetings has been done by letters posted out to us.

I agree entirely that an email list should not be for endless polemics, it is just a standard way of organising in the 21st century, especially for an organistion like the ULA that claims to want to be “membership led”.

And even to the extent I, or anyone else, does want to try to convince other members of any particular point spamming an email list is just plain stupid and only undermines whatever argument is being made.

I think you make a good point about what should have been the focus of the national event this coming weekend but after my experience in the Cork branch I get the feeling that the SP & SWP want to limit this kind of discussion as they have a perspective of holding back any moves towards the ULA becoming anything like a real membership led organisation until some unspecified time in the future when the masses come flooding in and everything will change.

Making discussion on the structures and political culture of the ULA the central theme of the national event would be viewed as sending the wrong signals and might end up in something that broke with their schematic view of the ULA having to have structures in line with their understanding of its nature as an alliance.

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Jolly Red Giant - June 22, 2011

With all due respect – using an email list does not make the ULA ‘membership led’ – all an email list does is let those who have the time and who can type fast enough to shout the loudest. If you want a ‘membership led’ organisation then you do it by building democratic structures, by implementing a democratic decision making process and engaging with working class people during the course of the class struggle.

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revolutionaryprogramme - June 23, 2011

I wasn’t aware that I was making a direct casual relationship of this nature. Of course the mere fact of having a mailing list does not make any organisation democractic in-of-itself. But at the same time any membership led organisation in the 21st century that is democratic and inclusive will almost certainly have an email list as a matter of course.

An organisation that meets once a month (and in the case of Cork will not have a branch meeting for 2 months because, on the recommendation of the SP, the July branch meeting has been turned over to be a public meeting) and has no way for 1/3 of its members to discuss inbetween meetings while the other 2/3rds meet on a weekly basis woud seem to fail to meet any of the requirements of being democratic, inclusive or membership led in any real sense.

And yet this is exactly the structure SP & SWP comrades argued successfully should be in place because as Stephen Body put it “the ULA is not an organisation”. The implication being that therefore we have no need for democratic and inclusive structures that will allow the ULA “non-organisation” to be genuinely membership led.

This problem seems to be replicating itself across the country in various forms though Cork is ahead of the game in terms of setting up its branch. It is going to be very interesting to see how the session on this issue at the national forum plays out. I really hope that the heavy-handed and schematic approach taken in the Cork branch is not replicated nationally or we stand a very good chance of killing the ULA before it even properly begins.

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neilcaff - June 23, 2011

Building a new party is a tricky process. The risks of things falling apart are huge and the price of failure can be very heavy indeed. Just ask people in Scotland or Italy what the long term damage of a left formation imploding looks like. It ain’t pretty.

I know you are trying to be constructive revolutionaryprogramme but reading through your comments I have to say if I was a new person reading this thread who didn’t know the ins and outs of the ULA I would probably be a bit put off the ULA.

So in the spirit of being constructive please take my advice in a similar fashion. To paraphrase Clement Attlee a period of patience on your part would be most welcome.

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Shay Guevara - June 23, 2011

Posting letters seems to be a waste of money on stamps when it can be done for nothing by e-mail. (With notice of meetings being sent out by post to people who don’t have e-mail, of course.) That’s the simple reason why more or less every organisation, political or otherwise, uses e-mail these days.
But I wonder do the parties within the ULA have e-mail lists where their own members can discuss and debate issues with each others? I know that there has in the past been resistance to such lists in at least one of them. Is this still the situation? If so, it may explain their reluctance for ULA members to have something they don’t have themselves.

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revolutionaryprogramme - June 23, 2011

Neil,

Well I find myself in something of a catch-22 situation if I am right in my understanding of the importance of creating structures from the very beginning that faciliate the right kind of political culture.

If I put my head down and go with the flow as your advice implies then I would in effect be complicit in the creation of a political culture which will mean the ULA cannot go on to play a useful role for our class in the struggle for socialism.

All I have done is argue for what I believe is necessary. I have accepted the decision of the Cork branch and acted in accordance with it by actively participating in the actions decided on without in any way disrupting them.

However I retain my right to criticise the decision and will seek to have it overturned. I will definitely argue against it being taken on as the model for the organisation nationally. I think this is my right as a member, indeed I think it is my responsibility.

In fact this gets to the heart of the question of the kind of political culture we are interested in regarding the value we put on political discussion. Something Des Derwin has discussed in his new post – http://tomasoflatharta.com/2011/06/23/ula-what-kind-of-party-do-we-need-3/

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revolutionaryprogramme - June 23, 2011

Shay,

My understanding is that the SP, at least, does not have such discussion lists and this was reflected at the Cork branch in the hostility of their leader Stephen Boyd’s to the very idea of them as they were, for him, just a source of trouble.

But my understanding of the SP’s internal life is second-hand so I stand to be corrected by Mark P, JRG or any other SPer who posts here.

My knowledge of Stephen Boyd’s hostility to the very idea of such lists (it was unclear whether his comment was just in the context of the ULA or more generally) is however first-hand.

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90. ragman - June 23, 2011

As someone looking from the sidelines and wantin to wish the project well can i urge people on here not to be gettin there knickers in a not on here over trivial matters, it does turn people off to be honest. To echo what someone said a rake of posts back I think it would be good to have a few central figures on the leadership that are not SP or SWP to both attract other people and to steady the ship, hope u dont mind me pokin my nose in and keep on building unity

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Chet Carter - June 23, 2011

@Ragman, I agree. Ireland needs a vibrant Left Party That will actively champion the working classes. So I wish ULA well but it does feel that if you are not a revolutionary socialist your presence will not be welcome. If the Irish working class wanted revolutionary socialism, thousands of people would be flocking to join either the SWP or SP every month. I don’t see this happening so hopefully ULA can be a more inclusiver vehicle that can mobilise them. And this is not knocking SP or SWP members, it is their energy that has got ULA to where it is.

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revolutionaryprogramme - June 24, 2011

ragman, I guess it depends on what you think are “trivial matters”.

For myself I don’t think it is a trivial matter whether or not the ULA has a political culture that embraces the importance of political debate and discussion – which is the main question being discussed here. Without such a political culture the ULA will be unable to respond to the many twists and turns of the class struggle, it will not be able to reflect on what it has done right and what it has done wrong so it will not be able to correct itself and do it better in the future.

Chet, I think your comment about what the Irish working class wants misses an important point. Political programmes shouldn’t simply be a reflection of the perceived immediate wants of the working class but rather on the perceived objective needs of the working class.

At the moment if you looked at what the Irish working class wanted in terms of how they are currently “voting with their feet” you might struggle to make an argument in favour of union membership let alone opposition to the attacks on living standards or militant class struggle. Yet I think most members of the ULA would agree, with secondary differences over details, that we need to strengthen the unions, mobilise mass opposition to the attacks including through militant class struggle and that this all form part of our programme.

If we thought that Irish working people already wanted what we thought was necessary then they would already be doing it and there would be no point in forming the ULA as it would already exist. Political parties exist to change things and that includes helping change the existing consciousness of working people to one where they are conscious of themselves as a class and the need to struggle together for our common class interests.

If we agree that we need a party to fight for our interests as a class then the question of what programmatic framework that should take is one that is important to thrash out and to build a political culture where is can be continually discussed and refined in response to concrete experience.

For my own part I do make the argument the to be a party that consistently fights for the interests of working people it needs to have a revolutionary socialist programme, as I understand than term. I have presented my reasoning for that and what I think would be the key elements of such a programme – http://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/for-a-revolutionary-socialist-programme-2/ – and I hope that others will do the same.

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91. andy - June 23, 2011

I agree with Neilcaff, patience is key and any criticisms I do make I hope are constructive. I have a lot of time for people like JH and RBB and without both organisations we wouldn’t be as far on as the ULA has come, nowhere near it. They deserve great credit. I think revprogramme shares this sentiment and is just being eager, which is great but needs to be focused aswell.

But on the ULA conference..I see absolutely no point in the workshops. We are all here because we share a common goal, we agree on 90% of things whether we be far leftists, republican socialists, trots or whatever. I don’t think we should force a party into the making, but it should be the no1 issue being debated. Workshops waffling about the finer points of ideology, climate change or whatever is not needed at the conference for me (this is not trying to be derogatory or saying I don’t think these subjects are important, they are, I just think they are for a different forum, I’m sure readers here grasp my point), I think a party will be built when the walls come down and trust is established, which will come with time and nothing else. Of utmost importance at this point however is to talk about these issues. Structures, organisational matters, goals, what type party we want if we do want one, what are our immediate tasks and short-term aims so people can leave knowing what to do (not leaving after a self-indulgent debate where everyone basically agrees on random issues, however important).

All the meetings around the country seemed to be building towards the conference. The idea from what I gathered was not to talk about a series of issues on a circle, but to take the practical next organisational steps for the ULA and get the show on the road, no matter what pace is chosen (I favour a gradual process myself, can’t force things).

But I am not too disappointed or anything, just being honest. These things will iron themselves out with time, mistakes are going to be made but the ULA will become more efficient as we move forward. It is exciting times for the Irish left. Just thought I’d add my 2 cents here as I think the left does have a penchant for being a bit scattered, engaging in endless debates that lead to no practical steps (trotsky v stalin has appeared in many an Irish bar over the years!) and I would prefer the core issues were concentrated on viz. structures, potentially building a party and how we need to do it, possible problems etc

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D_D - June 27, 2011

Wisdom. Keep adding your 2 cents Andy.

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92. revolutionaryprogramme - June 26, 2011

My report on, and assessment of, the national forum is available for anyone who is interested at http://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/2011/06/26/my-report-on-the-national-forum/

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93. D_D - June 27, 2011

Loadza info on ULA Forum over at

http://tomasoflatharta.com/

Where’s me avatar gone?

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94. D_D - June 27, 2011

Ah, it’s back

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95. John O'Neill - June 27, 2011

I attended the Jobs workshop and the one on the ULA and Northern Ireland. I agree that some of the SWP new members were a bit animated but it wasn’t withourt provocation. Their anger was directed at a man who attended the forum with the intent to disrupt. He had attempted to address the opening session unsuccessfully and spoke at the Jobs workshop. In essence he stated we should all join the Labour Party, that social democracy has brought prosperity to all of Europe and that emigration is to be welcomed as a lifetime opportunity to experience the world. A member of the SWP was angry because his brother had been forced to emigrate hence the shouting. If I had attended a Labour Party forum and insisted on speaking about the failure of the LP to offer an alternative to right wing policies of FG I would be ejected immediately.

I have to disagree, the intro from the SP speaker to the Jobs workshop was a very good introduction (most likely targetted at newcomers to the ULA or Left politics) and the proposals presented by Emmet (SP) from a sub committee of the ULA on Jobs were practical short term realistic ideas. Everyone attending the workshop was informed by Emmet that the poroposals weren’t finalised and any contributions were welcomed that would strengthen the ULA Jobs plan.

As for the chair, he wasn’t a member of the SWP but of TASC and was appointed at the meeting. He was a little nervous and deserves thanks for volunteering and he did attempt to involve Terrence MacDonagh in the debate but he didn’t take it up.

The workshop on the North was a bit heated at times and as for timing I thought it should have been in the morning as it was possibly the most devisive of all the workshops. The SP outlined their position clearly which could be summarised as a fear that what constitutes the left in NI is ‘too green’ and would be considered a barrier to working class unity.

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Jim Monaghan - June 27, 2011

The barracking I referred to was at the North session. t was directed at the SP. I feel strongly that people are entitled to their say and should not be interupted provided they stay within the norms. As for the person at the jobs session.I wondered why he was there and his barnstorming in the after noon was unacceptable.

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96. John O'Neill - June 27, 2011

Sorry, I meant to post this comment on
http://tomasoflatharta.com/

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97. D_D - June 27, 2011

Posted for you there John if that’s OK.

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98. More on building the ULA… « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - June 27, 2011

[...] foot of the weekend’s events it seems best to move on from this post, and for people to consider this Tomás Ó Flatharta’s observations [as D-D recommended in [...]

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99. revolutionaryprogramme - July 10, 2011

The SP and SWP different visions for the ULA are starting to come out into the open.

For a left-critique of the SP’s formally correct attack on the SWP see – http://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/2011/07/10/sp-reply-to-swp-on-national-forum/

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LeftAtTheCross - July 10, 2011

Whatever the merit of members of ULA’s constituent paty’s discussing differences if policy or strategy via blogs or discussion forums, which can be a useful exercise, I find it somehow counter-productive if not downright egotistical that this discussion is hapening via internet megaphones on their party websites. What are they trying to do here, are they intent on using tactics of Left-sectarianism to whittle away the unaligned membership that they’ve been trying pretty hard to build up? Crazy stuff really, not the content of their disagreements, but the manner in which they are being aired.

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