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The Socialist Party “ULA – Not measuring up to political challenges” November 28, 2012

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Politics, The Left.

Article on The Socialist Party Site

From outside its hard to know who they are attacking here over CAHWT

In many areas, forces from the ULA have actually allowed the campaigns to lapse.

Although the following is decent point

If there is an over focus by the ULA on legislating for the X Case, we could inadvertently assist the narrowing of the debate, which is one way in which the establishment is trying to get away with making as minimal changes as possible.

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1. LeftAtTheCross - November 28, 2012

The criticism of the tendency of some in the ULA to frame themselves as offering “practical” and “relevant” positions is presumably a broadside at the PBPA pre-budget statement last week.

The criticism of others in the ULA taking their eye off the ball in the CAHWT could be laying the groundwork for a structured broadening of the scope of the campaign under SP control into CAHWT-2.0, or CAPTA (Campaign Against Property Tax and Austerity) as the Dublin West campaign has renamed itself recently. Which is perhaps the step before the SP takes ownership completely of the campaign ahead of the local elections. Or am I being cynical, being a WP member etc.

WorldbyStorm - November 28, 2012

The problem the charge of ‘practical’ and ‘relevant’ is that the opposite of those terms are ‘impractical’ and ‘irrelevant’.

Hadn’t realised that about Dublin West.

Agree to some extent with IELB’s point about an ‘over focus’.

Jolly Red Giant - November 28, 2012

There is a difference in something that is perceived as ‘practical’ (which it often isn’t) and something which is necessary. The Socialist Party is clear – there is no solution to this crisis on the basis of capitalism and any proposals that ignore putting forward socialist solutions are not ‘practical’ they are simply creating illusions that capitalism is capable of resolving its inherent contradictions.

WorldbyStorm - November 28, 2012

But the thought strikes me that is it necessarily the SP (or its definitions) that is the yardstick against which all these matters are measured? And the other thought strikes me, and I’m sure revolutionaryprogramme or someone else would tend to agree, that from the off the ULA has had a fairly dilute programme so it’s hard to see what the particular problem is now or particularly what the need is for ‘a fuller socialist’ programme at this juncture. What has changed substantively since pre 2011.

D_D - November 29, 2012

WBS: “What has changed substantively since pre 2011.”

The subjective factor

revolutionaryprogramme - November 29, 2012

It is hard not to see this kind of argument that implies the socialist programme is some kind of slowly revealed truth delivered when the working class is deemed subjectively ready for it as both paternalistic and opportunist…

Michael Carley - November 29, 2012

It is not the revealing of the socialist programme that takes time, but the consciousness that it is possible to win.

That is true of small struggles as well as of big ones.

revolutionaryprogramme - November 29, 2012

MC – that is of course true, though that consciousness can sometimes change very quickly but I thought WBS’s point was to do with the SP arguing for a “fuller socialist programme” which implies there are “lesser socialist programmes” with D_D implying that these are only revealed as the subjective factor of workers’ consciousness changes. This strikes me as a direct refutation of the method of the Transitional Programme that the SP claims to be applying. The method of the TP is to take the immediate demands being raised in the workers movement and link them coherently and organically into the full socialist programme of workers power.

CMK - November 29, 2012

RP – what demands are being raised in the ‘workers’ movement’ at the moment? Who are or what is the workers’ movement in the present circumstances in Ireland? Is it the unions? And, if so, should the SP and/or the ULA tailor its programme to their demands? Or is there some other arena where workers can articulate and formulate a programme, and develop the necessary levels of consciousness, that will lead to workers taking power. Do Irish workers even want political power? Do they even see themselves as ‘workers’ and does the term ‘worker’ carry any political significance today? Where do we find workers who are looking to take political power? My experience is that most workers are grumbling, keeping their heads down and hoping it gets better, planning to emigrate or falling back to FF or SF as the sources of political hope. What little searching for political answers outside the mainstream is happening in the CAHWT and even there it is cross-cut by all sorts of political nonsense like the recent Direct Democracy movement, and where the ideas of socialists are not widely accepted, although there is surely scope for raising political consciousness towards socialist ideas within the CAHWT.

revolutionaryprogramme - November 29, 2012

CMK – I think we could all come up with a long list of demands being raised in opposition to austerity. These should be part of any socialist programme worthy of the name. They should be linked with wider social and economic demands up to and including the need for the seizure of power. I wrote the following draft outline of what such a programme should contain a few years ago – https://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/for-a-revolutionary-socialist-programme-2/ – I think the basic framework holds its validity although of course it would need tweaking to apply to the specific of the current situation.

I accept that this programme will not be taken on by the wider workers’ movement at this time – that seems fairly obvious as if it was then we would be in quite a different political situation with all kinds of possiblities on the immediate horizon. However if this programme is not openly raised now by that minority of workers who currently support it then how will its influence spread?

The development of socialist consciousness among the wider ranks of the workers’ movement relies on a combination of subjective and objective factors. There is a political struggle between competing ideologies on the reformist to revolutionary spectrum within the workers’ movement. Just relying on the objective factors with the subjective element of the programme waiting for the development of those objective factors (level of class struggle primarily) is in effect to hand the reformists a huge advantage in that political struggle for the subjective factor.

Having this programme does not in any way inhibit revolutionary socialists from participating alongside workers’ still holding to reformist consciousness of various kinds in immediate campaigns – indeed it is a responsbility of revolutionary socialists to do so.

D_D - November 29, 2012

RP you’ve got the wrong end of the stick from my admitedly obscure bit of sarcasm. I wasn’t referring to the subjective factor of workers’ consciousness (which I would usually think of as an objective factor in relation to socialist policy and strategy, if you are still with me). I was referring to the subjective factor of the Socialist Party’s thinking. WBS had asked what had changed since 2011 (2010?) to need a change from the more dilute ULA platform. Actually the SP have occasionally chomped at the bit of the ULA platform since 2010. But my cloudy quip was about the remarked-upon emphasis to the left by the SP since the departure of Clare Daly.

Incidentally, is RP implying that the revolutionary programme is already completely written, and is out there like a Platonic form? The issues of the day have merely to be informed by it? And that, as well, the revolutionary programme is in fact Trotsky’s Transitional Programme of 1938 (a death agony that looks like outliving most people born in that year).

CMK - November 29, 2012

RP – thanks for clarifying those points. My questions arose from reference to the Transitional Programme and its possible relevance to currents, developments and possibilities today and in the near to medium term future. When it was written the term ‘workers’ movement’ applied to something living and powerful, if flawed and riven with conflict between Stalinists, social democrats etc. Nonetheless, it was a huge factor. It may well be temporary pessimism on my part but for many today ‘workers’ movement’ maps onto a trade union movement that is an active agent in disempowering workers and holding back an prospect of organised resistance to austerity. Nevermind, using the fight against austerity to chart a course away from capitalism and towards a socialist/communist society (the latter, of course, if it comes about at all, will be subject to enormous contestation on the part of those opposed to the development in the first place and among those fighting for it). From what I can see CAHWT is the first space for mass resistance that has opened up outside of the trade unions and I don’t think that when it was launched anyone quiet expected it to gain the traction it has.

On a practical level, as you could probably acknowledge, the far left here is very small with many people active in CAHWT, their own party/organisation and/or the ULA and maybe one or two other campaigns. I think the CAHWT has crowded out the ULA for the time being but that should the CAHWT, probably by accident, become a catalyst for the development of a political consciousness that could accelerate rapidly towards socialist conclusions, then the ULA or its successor (if it fragments) would acquire the substance that it needs to raise the kinds of challenge to Irish neo-liberal capitalism that are necessary to defend Irish workers.

revolutionaryprogramme - November 29, 2012

D_D, apologies for misinterpreting your remark.

As regards the TP, no I don’t think it is already completely written. It is a living document dependent on the specifics of time and geography and never has a final form. I am not arguing for that but rather the general method which underlies the time/geography specific applications of that method.

Jolly Red Giant - November 29, 2012

I am not going to get into a debate about the nature of the Transitional Programme – but I must correct some mis-apprehension about the Socialist Party’s approach to the programme of the ULA.

Since its inception, the Socialist Party has argued that the ULA should adopt an openly socialist programme – the ‘watered down’ version of the ULA programme primarily came from the other affiliates of the ULA. Today the Socialist Party is still arguing from the same perspective – suggesting that the socialist programme is even more urgent while the PBPA is actually shifting its political and economic programme to the right of the existing ULA programme.

LeftAtTheCross - November 28, 2012

“there is no solution to this crisis on the basis of capitalism and any proposals that ignore putting forward socialist solutions are not ‘practical’ they are simply creating illusions that capitalism is capable of resolving its inherent contradictions.”

Funny, but am I imagining it or does this read pretty much like one of the KKE statements that the SP is so fond of dissing?

Mark P - November 28, 2012

The Socialist Party doesn’t criticise the KKE for its socialism or its insistence that resolving the crisis in the interests of working class people means breaking with capitalism. In fact, those are the things about the KKE which the Socialist Party agrees with. It criticises the KKE over other things entirely.

Incidentally, the SP and KKE tend to be on the same side when there are debates and disagreements in the GUE/NGL.

LeftAtTheCross - November 28, 2012

Does the SP consider that the objective conditions in Ireland are equivalent to those in Greece in terms of the viability of mass popular support for a rupture with capitalism? Yet even in Greece the popular vote for the KKE fell to 5% in the July general election. Apart from a couple of hundred SP/SWP members, what about the other 99.995% of the population here, do you really think they’re receptive to undiluted revolutionary socialism at this moment in time?

Mark P - November 28, 2012

I don’t think that either Ireland or Greece is about to go socialist. I do think that there’s a bigger audience for socialist ideas in Greece right now. I also think that we have to start somewhere, and if you are a socialist that means doing our best to convince those who can be convinced at the moment.

LeftAtTheCross - November 28, 2012

Am I recalling it incorrectly or was the SP not critically supportive of SYRIZA and their practical and relevant incremental position?

Incidentally on the back of which they are currently riding at 31%, ahead of New Democracy at 26% in the Greek opinion polls, so presumably they are actually convincing quite a lot of people in the direction of socialism.

Mark P - November 28, 2012

“Critically supportive”, means precisely that the Socialist Party argued that SYRIZA should adopt clearly socialist policies.

Jolly Red Giant - November 28, 2012

LatC – yes you are being cynical – The Socialist Party has and will continue to argue for a broadening of the CAHWT into a generalised anti-austerity campaign. However, to suggest that the SP is attmepting to take ‘ownership’ of the campaign is nonsense. The CAHWT is at its most effective as a mass campaign with the active involvement of thousands of members – do you serious think that the Socialist Party would in any way jeopardise that by cynical manoeuvering.?

As for the problems in some branches – I recently attended a public meeting in a small town where about 25 people attended. Those in attendance were highly critical of others within the ULA who had originally organised the public meetings, collected membership fees and contact details and then after a short period basically disappeared without trace. When the county CAHWT committee attempted to get the membership lists and contact details in order to keep these people informed – nothing was forthcoming. You can imagine the cynicism of these poeple when members of the county campaign showed up and tried to re-build the CAHWT branch. After nearly three hours of discussions those in attendance finally accepted that we would not abandon them as had previously happened and agreed to engage in organising activity in the town. I suspect similar things have happened in other places.

Julian Assandwich - November 29, 2012

Indeed similar things have happened in other places. It’s really not on.

2. Mick Hall - November 28, 2012

“been damaged by being associated with Mick Wallace”

But is that true, in many ways surly it has been the MSM who have over hyped ‘being damaged. The only way the ULA will be damaged amongst its targeted working class base is if it turns in on itself.

Has Daly even been ‘damaged by her close association with Wallace, what I have read about her work on the recent rights of women etc, it did not look like she had.

We all understand socialism is the only way people will get a fair shake, but is the SP really saying it is on the immediate agenda? If so it is a bluff, for few comrades I meet truly believe that.

Could this be the SP leadership acclimatizing their membership for a break with the ULA? Are we to get yet another Trotskyist two steps forward, ten back, please tell me I’m wrong.

What UKip in the UK and to a degree SF in Ireland tells us is to move forward as a minor party/alliance you need a solid block of policies which you stick to and bang away at day after day and avoid splits at all costs. Internal bickering is the road to disaster.

Just some thoughts

dilettante - November 29, 2012

“Could this be the SP leadership acclimatizing their membership for a break with the ULA?”

I admit to having expressed similar thoughts on other threads in the past.

If there was no ULA then probably Clare Daly would still be in the SP, and Joe Higgins would be far more visible than he is.

A couple of SP TDs – and in particular Higgins – would have been in a position to get more out of the Technical Group than being part of an ULA grouplet in which RBB is able to throw his weight around.

The SP could have been in a position to have two TDs and a couple of other possible seats at the next election. To this you could add a supportive campaign – CAHWT/CAPTA.. And an establishment media who just love Joe.

Instead they have lost a TD, have FF and SF snapping at their heels for the MEP seat. They have their hands tied by the social democratic principles of the ULA (it must really annoy them that half the ULA TDs are former members of theirs). And in the public mind they are locked into an unholy alliance with unsavoury elements of the TG.

If they could do it all again they might have terminated the ULA before birth.

Acclimatisation for a break with an alliance that not all of their members have bothered to join anyway?
Looks like it.

But we could be wrong.

Julian Assandwich - November 29, 2012

Or, the SP are opening a political discussion in the ULA for it to move to the left now that false illusions in the new government “fixing” the economy are over and the crisis is deepening – and on many different (now-organized) fronts. I think if the SP engaged more in the branch network they’d find people warming to the idea.

The SP can be hard work, but you can work with them, discuss ideas and have disagreements without them taking their ball and going home.

Overall the piece is a welcome and positive contribution to the project – which is in its early days when we see how far the crisis still has to go.

What are the implications of “capitalism cannot solve this crisis” though? Is their analysis that the state will default and fall? Or that we’re entering a prolonged period of austerity and the next 10 years will be like the previous 4?

3. Branno's ultra-left t-shirt - November 28, 2012

Mick, I think you were right when you said in a previous post that neither the SP or the SWP were prepared to ‘bet the house’ on building an organisation that aimed to provide a real alternative. Success for both of them is defined by being the biggest fish in a small pond.
(I think Clare Daly’s stock has risen in the last month if anything. I see she was visiting republican prisoners in the North today).

LeftAtTheCross - November 28, 2012

Branno, I think smiffy recently noted here that the extent of their ambition was to protest against SF government ministers after the next election…

WorldbyStorm - November 28, 2012

That’s an interesting point about CD. I think you’re right Branno, and I think in particular after pushing for X legislation earlier in the year the dismal events of the last fortnight have in some respects shown her to have been well ahead of the curve and willing to bring forward measures that might have ameliorated or dealt fully with that situation.

Joe - November 28, 2012

(I think Clare Daly’s stock has risen in the last month if anything. I see she was visiting republican prisoners in the North today).

Oh my sweet suffering Christ. Was she really?

doctorfive - November 29, 2012

part of an Oireachtas delegation

Mark P - November 28, 2012

Clare’s stock certainly has risen, given that an issue she is very strong on has been the main news item for weeks. She has done a good job too.

However, those who’ve been listening to her speeches will have heard her drop Wallace’s name, entirely unnecessarily again and again, on every platform and in the Dail. As far as I can see she is every bit as intent on associating herself with him politically as ever. And as soon as she starts talking again about economic issues, taxation, the crisis, property developers, etc she will have him thrown back in her face every time.

patfrank80 - November 28, 2012

No Mark P she hasn’t. She has correctly mentioned Mick Wallace in relation to the bill to which his name is attached. Should she re-write history as the SP suggest? A bill by the way Joe Higgins had every opportunity to attach his name to back in June but didn’t bother to because let’s face it the x case and aborton wasn’t the live issue it is now and it wasn’t in JH interest to be linked to it – in the debate at the time he handed back half his allotted time. He wasn’t bothered to use his alloted 10 minutes. Mark P you have been in the Sp forwhat about 11 years now and you have fallen foul of the leadership more than once. Yet you trot out their line here time after time. I find it incredible that some one like you and particularly given your profession that you are so sure on Clare Dalys position yet you nor your comrade JRG have spoken to her directly in 2-3 years. Maybe you should conatct her and hear her side of things or would that be too much to ask, comrade!

Mark P - November 29, 2012

What an odd start to your comment, Pat. You start by saying “no she hasn’t” and then you go on to explain why you think she has and offer a justification. It is a fact that Clare has mentioned Wallace’s name over and over again when speaking on this issue. Nobody else makes a point of doing that.

By the way, as I understand it, the Bill was submitted in Clare’s name only.

Your mischievous comments about Joe Higgins, who spoke and voted in favour of the bill, are noted. As for me “falling foul of the leadership” of the Socialist Party, yes, I’ve certainly had my arguments in the SP, often from a minority point of view. What’s strange about that?

Clare made no attempt to convince other people in the Socialist Party of her point of view while she was a member. She may well be the first TD in the history of the state to leave a political party and take no noticeable section of the local party organisation. That’s not an accident.

Clare is and has always been a tireless activist, a talented public speaker, a truly excellent debater, and a natural political fighter. I have great personal admiration for her and I think that she’s a real loss to the Socialist Party – as her work on the abortion issue over the last couple of weeks has demonstrated again. That doesn’t change the fact that her political association with Wallace is madness. And every time I hear her drop his name from a platform, or justify his stance to Vincent Browne, I am genuinely saddened. She has no need to do that. She chooses to.

patfrank80 - November 29, 2012

She mentioned the three people who were on the bill. Herself, Mick Wallace and Joan Collins (you forgot her!). You didn’t answer my point about re-writing history and pretending that Mick Wallace had nothing to do with the bill – should she? Let’s remember as those in the pro choice campaigns supporting the bill know it was Mick Wallace who initially raised the issue in the Dail in April or May of this year not Clare Daly. The SP had no problem with him being part of the bill in June (he didn’t just become a capitalist in June!) – they had no problem with him being part of the SNA campaign either. JH had no problem approaching him and him alone to employ GAMA workers or sharing a few beers with him in Inchicore (when he was a capitalist). The stench of hypocrisy from the SP on Wallace is nauseating!

I think you will find the SP in Swords has collapsed. The 3 members the SP have in Balbriggan are carrying on! While on the subject I note there was another resignation from the SP last week in the North. A female member there accused the leadership of telling lies about why Clare Daly and the Greene brothers left the party – that didn’t go down well and now strangely she is gone too!

Strange your ‘personal admiration’ for her didn’t stretch to talking to her about why she left the SP, what she had been put through by the ‘leadership’ – a visit to the ULA council last Sunday would have given you an insight to the vitriol, abuse and lies she has had to endure. I suppose it’s easier for you to swallow the line (not something you have always done willingly).

rmtoh - November 29, 2012

‘I think you will find the SP in Swords has collapsed.’

As a member of the Socialist Party in Swords I can safely say you’re talking absolute crap.

As for ‘the vitriol, abuse and lies she has had to endure’…….oh the irony.

Mark P - November 29, 2012

The Bill was in her name only. She has continuously emphasised Wallace’s name on the issue, over and over again. Joan Collins, it’s worth noting does not make a point of doing that. Neither does anybody else. His name is mentioned regularly at protests, but pretty much always by Clare. She chooses to that. She does not have to. It is a political decision she makes.

Of course, the Socialist Party had no hesitation in trying to get a couple of former GAMA workers facing poverty a job with Wallace or with anyone else. Nor did we give much of a shit if independent TDs turn up in various campaigns. Wallace is a different matter to run of the mill independent TDs however because of his tax affairs, particularly against the background of his status as a property developer. An association with him his toxic for left wing people trying to argue against austerity. And in particular, he was politically toxic to the Campaign Against Household and Water Charges, and that Clare apparently can’t see that speaks very badly of her judgment.

You really have to make you mind up you know. You alternate being trying to imply that there is no political alliance between Clare and Wallace and trying to imply that, really, Wallace isn’t so bad. It’s simply dishonest of you. Which is it? There’s no political association or there is one, but we should be fine with it?

Although that dishonesty rather pales beside your hilarious little fantasies about the state of the Socialist Party, which has just had its largest conference since I joined. The branches in Dublin North are in good health, and uniformly unsympathetic to Clare. As I’ve already said, that she managed to leave a political party while not convincing any notable section of her local organisation to leave with her is quite possibly unique in the annals of Irish politics. Funny that.

As for my personal admiration for Clare as an activist, she had no interest in convincing me or other Socialist Party members of her point of view while she was in the Socialist Party, so I don’t really see much reason to go looking for it now that she is openly hostile to the Socialist Party. Anyway, didn’t Clare put out a statement saying that she was motivated by her desire to build the ULA? Are you suggesting that she wasn’t being accurate?

Now, seriously, run along and play with the traffic. I’ve no particular desire to get into a big slanging match about Clare, someone who I do admire as an activist, but some of whose recent political decisions I find saddening and baffling.

Jolly Red Giant - November 29, 2012

Let’s be clear on a couple of things -

In 2007 prior to the Dail being dissolved Joe Higgins was due to propose a Private Members Bill in the Dail on the introduction of legislation based on the X-case. It was and continues to be the policy of the Socialist Party that this should happen.

Following the election in 2011 it was agreed within the ULA that ULA sponsored motions would only be signed by ULA TDs – when Clare Daly was submitting her Private Members Bill (a Bill originating in the Socialist Party) she went against this decision by getting Wallace to sign the Bill – just as she did in getting Ross and Donnelly to sign subsequent Bills.

Following Clare Daly’s resignation from the Socialist Party it was agreed within the ULA that Clare Daly would not associate herself publicly in the Dail with Mick Wallace by sitting beside him in the dail while ULA TDs were speaking – that all the ULA TDs would sit together. Clare Daly has broken this agreement consistently.

In recent days the Socialist Party has argued that the newly submitted Bill should reflect the changing situation following the tragic death of Savita and be broadened to include constitutional issues. The Socialist Party argued that keeping the focus of the Bill narrowed to the X-Case was counter-productive and was in reality letting the government off the hook. The remaining ULA TD’s and affiliate groups rejected this and proceeded with the current Bill,

As Mark has pointed out – Clare Daly has played a very important role on this current issue – I could nit-pick and say that there are things I would have done differently – but she does deserve credit for her public defence of abortion rights in this country. She is a capable and competent propagandist particularly on this issue.

However, as Mark has also pointed out – next week in the Dail when Clare Daly gets up to attack the budget and Mick Wallace is sitting beside her – the government backbenchers will have a field day heckling her and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the odd photo of the two of them in the national papers as the media cheerlead for austerity.

And pat – you really should not try and lecture me about my past or current relationship, association or communication with Clare Daly.

Jolly Red Giant - November 29, 2012

Just checked it Mark – and you are correct – it was submitted in Clare Daly’s name only.

WorldbyStorm - November 29, 2012

I’m curious JRG why JH would think to propose a PMB in 2007 ‘prior to the Dail being dissolved’. That Dail term went pretty much to its full extent, in fact it was the third longest, with an election hardly a month before it statutorily could be last held, so it wasn’t exactly a surprise to anyone and its not as if there would have been any more time to do so had it been called any later.

patfrank80 - November 29, 2012

‘Joe H was due to’ – good god is that the best you can do? Why then on both occasions that he spoke on the issue did he give away time – lets face it Higgins is not normally stuck for words?

The SP opposition to the bill is simply an attempt by them to ‘create’ a difference with CD. The narrow focus of the bill was correct in the current circumstances – the only thins that can be legislated for at the moment is the X case – something the SP seem incapable of grasping.

As for sitting beside MW – the last time I checked the ULA was not in a position to dictate what TDs do and don’t do – JH has often sat beside Shane Ross – is this tantamount to political support?

As for your relationship past/present and communication with CD – I will ‘lecture’ you as I see fit. The fact remains you from my enquiries you did not make any contact with CD to discuss the issues at play despite knowing her for 25 years – you simply trotted out the joint SP / Sunday Independent line. Am I wrong here? Ironically you defended her on other forums (in your other guises) yet when she left you turned against her trotting out the SP line (like Mark P not something you always felt comfortable doing). If you had any courage you would have contacted her and discussed the issues.

Jolly Red Giant - November 29, 2012

To clarify – Private Members Bills are submitted in rotation. Joe Higgins was due to submit a Bill on the X-Case when his turn came up in the rotation – the Dail was dissolved before he had the opportunity to submit it.

Like Mark – I have no intention of getting into a slagging match with patfrank about Clare Daly. I have known Clare Daly since she joined the Socialist Party more than 25 years ago I have had and continue to have the utmost respect for her abilities as a class fighter. I have been nothing more than a rank-and-file member of the Socialist Party for the past 10 years, with family and other committments I cannot devote time to play any other role. The last time I spoke to Clare Daly was in October 2011 – at that time, among other things, we discussed the poltical situation in the country, her work in the Dail, the ULA etc. During the entire two hours while we were eating a meal and waiting to attend a meeting she did not once raise any issue with me that she had a disagreement with the Socialist Party over. The leadership of the Socialist Party made numerous attempts to open up discussions with Clare Daly about any and every issue she might have regarded as a difficulty – she did not reciprocate. Indeed she did a disservice to the Socialist Party membership by not taking her disagreements into the ranks of the party and arguing for her views. Instead she resigned – end of – for the Socialist Party there is no issue for the membership – for the ULA and for Clare Daly herself, her politicial misjudgements could well come back to haunt both.

WorldbyStorm - November 29, 2012

To clarify – Private Members Bills are submitted in rotation. Joe Higgins was due to submit a Bill on the X-Case when his turn came up in the rotation – the Dail was dissolved before he had the opportunity to submit it.

I’m not sure how that clarifies matters at all. Rotation for individual TDs, or members of groups, as JH was as a member of the then Technical Group, would be very much a lottery. Unless it had been submitted in rotation a significant time before he would have known he had little chance the PMB would be arrived at before the dissolution of the Dáil. In any event, given the prominence of X in the context of the 2002 referendum it is a bit of a puzzle why it wouldn’t have been submitted much sooner than say 2006/2007, isn’t it?

doctorfive - November 29, 2012

From yesterday’s opening speech

” Although this Bill has my name on it, the reality is that it is a joint effort with Deputies Mick Wallace and Joan Collins. It has the full support of the United Left Alliance. A number of our staff were involved in drafting it.”

Kevin Higgins - November 30, 2012

Wallace did co-sponsor the original X-Case legislation in April (along with Clare and Joan Collins). Are you suggesting that she rewrite history?

Jolly Red Giant - December 1, 2012

For clarification -

This is from the Oireachtas website -

Medical Treatment (Termination of Pregnancy in Case of Risk to Life of Pregnant Woman) (No. 2) Bill 2012 [PMB]Bill
Number 103 of 2012
Sponsored by Deputy Clare Daly
Source: Private Member
Method: Introduced
Status: New Bill
First Stage
Introduced 20/11/2012

Medical Treatment (Termination of Pregnancy in Case of Risk to Life of Pregnant Woman) Bill 2012 [PMB]
Bill Number 10 of 2012
Sponsored by Deputy Clare Daly
Source: Private Member
Method: Introduced
Status: New Bill
First Stage
Introduced 22/02/20112

As you can see, accroding to the official records on the Oireachtas website both Bills were sponsored by one TD – Clare Daly.

WorldbyStorm - December 1, 2012

There’s a confusion here I think between introducing, moving and sponsoring a bill.

Daly may well have ‘sponsored’ the Bill, but the three of them ‘introduced’ and ‘moved’ the Bill.

From the Irish Times, Feb 22… http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2012/0222/breaking54.html

Ms Daly introduced the Bill on behalf of herself, Dublin South Central People Before Profit TD Joan Collins and Wexford Independent TD Mick Wallace.

18th April… Oireachtas

Deputy Joan Collins:     I am very proud to be part of the introduction of this Bill put forward by the United Left Alliance and Deputy Mick Wallace, the Medical Treatment (Termination of Pregnancy in Case of Risk to Life of Pregnant Woman) Bill 2012. The Bill is very specific.


From the ULA website, February 23rd 2012

TDs Clare Daly, Joan Collins, and Mick Wallace have together produced the Medical Treatment (Termination of Pregnancy in Case of Risk to Life of Pregnant Woman) Bill 2012 to legislate for the 1992 X case ruling. The Bill is scheduled to be introduced to the Dáil tomorrow (February 22nd).


Irish Examiner

April 19th

A Private Members’ Bill by TDs Clare Daly, Joan Collins and Mick Wallace to legislate on the controversial ‘X Case’ has been rejected today, by 109 votes to 20.

Jolly Red Giant - December 1, 2012

You are correct WbS – this was the point I was making.

Clare Daly sponsored both Bills – Joan Collins and Wallace were movers of the Second Stage of the Bill in the Dail.

Sarah Mills - December 1, 2012

It is well known that Alison Spillane of Mick Wallce’s office had a significant input in the final draft of the bill. Alison has been subject to vicious verbal attacks for her role in the bill.

It is absolutely disgraceful that her input is written out purely to serve the agenda of Jolly Red Giant and the Socialist Party.

Shame on you.

Jolly Red Giant - December 1, 2012

I am not writing out anyone’s role – I am correcting an error in the comment from Kevin Higgins that stated Joan Collins and Mick Wallace sponsored the first submission of the abortion Bill. The Bill was sponsored by Clare Daly – Joan Collins and Wallace were movers of the Second Stage of the Bill.

Sarah Mills - December 1, 2012

What an idiot.

WorldbyStorm - December 1, 2012

+1 re Allison Spillane, and let’s not forget Yvonne Murphy either.

JRG, whatever about the intent of your point it has the unfortunate appearance of being extremely partisan. I can’t say off the top of my head whether a PMB can only have a single sponsor at that stage, but any reasonable analysis – including crucially that of the ULA itself at the time – would see the Bill as being the work in the legislature (and again noting the central role of Spillane and Murphy and others too) of JC, CD and MW.

sonofstan - December 1, 2012

Alison has been subject to vicious verbal attacks for her role in the bill.

From what quarter?

CMK - December 1, 2012

Yeah, I’m getting confused here? It’s the first mention of her name so far?

Jolly Red Giant - December 1, 2012

If you want to talk about partisan I suggest that you look back to the comment by Kevin Higgins

Sarah Mills - December 1, 2012

youth defence have been going after her. The Irish Independent claimed she was exploiting Savita’s death.

Kevin Higgins - December 1, 2012

Correction. Clare moved the original bill in her own right but with the support and input of Joan Collins and Mick Wallace (and their staff). But it is nevertheless a fact that the SP want to rewrite history. Why else would they object to someone’s name being mentioned?

CMK - December 1, 2012

OK, but the implication from your initial post was that the SP were somehow vilifying her?

Kevin Higgins - December 1, 2012

Well, CMK, if walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck perhaps it is a duck. Yes. Villification. That is exactly what the SP have done and want to keep doing. It is what any sane, even half objective person would call it. Anyone who isn’t a Kevin McLoughlin apologist. There is good news tonight. The RED C polls shows huge support for abortion legislation and it looks like the support for the ULA is up (though it’s hard to quantify, but that is what people are saying) and here you are nitpicking.

Mark P - December 1, 2012

The notion that Clare Daly – and Clare Daly alone because Joan Collins doesn’t do it, and neither do any of the other speakers at the pro-choice rallies – is required to drop Mick Wallace’s name twice in every speech about abortion because Youth Defence have been unpleasant about one of his parliamentary staff is hilarious. Presumably her spirited defence of his refusal to engage with a Dail investigation on the VIncent Browne show was also some sort of odd attempt to recognise the work of one his Dail staff?

Kevin Higgins - December 1, 2012

Well, CMK, if walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck perhaps it is a duck. Yes. Villification. That is exactly what the SP have done and want to keep doing. It is what any sane, even half objective person would call it. Anyone who isn’t a Kevin McLoughlin apologist. There is good news tonight. The RED C polls shows huge support for abortion legislation and it looks like the support for the ULA is up (though it’s hard to quantify, but that is what people are saying) and here you are nitpicking.

WorldbyStorm - December 1, 2012

JRG, I’m not saying you are being partisan, I’m saying it unfortunately could “appear” very partisan.

CMK - December 1, 2012

Now I’m really confused. I thought the implication was that the SP were somehow vilifying Ms. Spillane which, despite following this thread closely, was never apparent to me. It’s been subsequently clarified that it was, in fact, Youth Defence who were the instigators of the vilification and now you’re coming along and stating that it was the SP all along? Are the SP a Youth Defence front? Is robust debate vilification?

Kevin Higgins - December 1, 2012

CORRECTION CMK I thought the question you were raising was whether or not the SP have been villifying Clare, which of course they have.

WorldbyStorm - December 1, 2012

Mark P, the obvious reason CD mentions MW and JC is because the three of them were central to moving the debate along in the legislature. I really can’t see what your problem with that would be. And perhaps it’s precisely because CD sponsored the bill but didn’t want her two co-movers or whatever to be left out.

WorldbyStorm - December 1, 2012

Indeed on Tuesday CD made the following point in the debate in the Oireachtas:

Although this Bill has my name on it, the reality is that it is a joint effort with Deputies Mick Wallace and Joan Collins.

WorldbyStorm - December 1, 2012

CMK, I’m presuming that the reason Allison Spillane entered into the equation is the concern that by concentrating on the ‘sponsoring’ role that marginalises all the other work conducted by JC and MW and the various individual named above who worked with them. I think that’s a misperception of JRG’s point – but I think the point could have been made a bit better in order that that misperception might not arise.

CMK - December 1, 2012

@Kevin Higgins: OK that’s reasonably clear. I can’t see where the SP are vilifying Clare Daly here? Both Mark P and JRG have prefaced their remarks on Clare Daly with declarations of there admiration for her. I can’t see any vilification there? Maybe I’m missing something. If I am, could you point out examples of vilification?

Kevin Higgins - December 1, 2012

The past two issues of their paper have included long articles attacking her by name, both by the dear leader, Kevin McLoughlin. Their press conference in September looked, well, nutty to anyone not damaged by the strange ways of the totalitarian left. Members of the SP, such as Gary Mulcahy, have been trolling on her Facebook page about the Wallace ‘issue’ [in response to an intem about the recent austerity protest.] Of course he didn’t identify himself as an SP member. When Clare published this http://www.claredaly.ie/the-euphemisms/ on her website on Thursday and it was shared via Twitter by a seemingly independent SP branch in the UK, the response of Gary Mulcahy of the SP was to post this on Twitter ‘Gary Mulcahy ‏@GaryMulsp In reply to RCT Socialists
@RCTSocialists “By the way, Kevin Higgins is a right-wing maverick who regularly attacks the Socialist Party and the CWI”.’ Gary Mulcahy is clearly a man obsessed, but he’s not the only one and it’s a fair bet he doesn’t pass wind without Kevin McLoughlin’s permission. So this sort of carry on has clearly been sanctioned by the SP leadership. Their position re: last week’s X-Case bill is also all about trying to put themselves to the left of Clare on the issue. It’s not about about abortion at all, but the cynicical manoeuvering of the SP leadership.

Mark P - December 1, 2012

My problem with that is I think that the whole Bill should have been presented and introduced as a ULA Bill right from the start. That it was not, was, in my view, a political mistake. The second Bill should certainly have been introduced as a ULA Bill, and, it was an even bigger mistake that it was not.

But my core problem is rather more basic than that. The approach to this broad argument about the ULA by Clare’s defenders is to find some aspect of her political association with Wallace, and argue that it is ok, or that it doesn’t reflect a determination to associate herself politically with him. And at the same time to ignore the consistent pattern of behaviour which that particular incident is only one part of. It’s an approach of deliberately staring at at a tree to avoid seeing the woods.

Clare continues to insist on sitting beside him in the Dail. She defended his refusal to engage with an Oireachtas Enquiry on the Vincent Browne show. She argued in the CAHWT, the utterly insane line that he should be allowed to be a local representative of the campaign in Wexford. She endorsed him in the media as “fit for office”. She has offered encouragement to the pro-Wallace breakaway group in Wexford. She takes every opportunity to drop his name in relation to the two X Bills in a way that nobody else does. I could continue this list all day, but the point is that there is a pattern that nobody could miss unless they are being entirely disingenuous. Clare has gone out of her way, over and over again, to politically associate herself with Wallace.

Mark P - December 1, 2012

Perhaps, Gary had been reading your ode to Paul Wolfowitz when he came to that conclusion, Kevin.

Kevin Higgins - December 1, 2012

No, Mark P, he was responding to a poem in support of the campaign for change to Ireland’s abortion laws being published on the website of the TD who moved the X-Case legislation. Not that I care what he or his type say. It’s funny really, and doesn’t convince anyone except perhaps himself.

Jolly Red Giant - December 1, 2012

And to follow on from Mark – I will guarantee you one further thing – Clare Daly’s political association with Wallace will come back to bit her in the rear end – and it could happen sooner rather than later. This week Clare Daly will stand up in the Dail with Wallace beside her and will attack the proposal for a property tax and the government backbenchers will have a field day heckling her and pointing at Wallace sitting beside her. furthermore, there are undoubtedly more skeletons in the Wallace closet and the establishment are just waiting for the right opportunity to unleash the dogs.

These comments are not being made to vilify or attack or discredit Clare Daly. No one in the Socialist Party wants anything else to happen other than Clare comes to her political senses and realises the damage and the potential damage her political association with Wallace can do.

In the next election the Socialist Party wants to see all four ULA TDs re-elected and several more as well. Not for one moment would any member of the Socialist Party want to see Clare Daly lose her seat. If that were to happen it would be a significant electoral blow to the left. However, can the people who come on here and other internet forums to defend Clare Daly make the same declaration of support about the Socialist Party – and its candidates in the next general and local elections.

Mark P - December 1, 2012

Yes, you care so little about what his type think that you report his comments here in detail on another website in a discussion about something completely different. You are as credible on this as you are on every other issue.

Kevin Higgins - December 1, 2012

Well, Mark P, there you go again. It’s not unrelated. Would be happy to debate anything anytime with the SP. It might gather a crowd.

Mark P - December 1, 2012

If the Socialist Party were going to organise a debate with a Paul Wolfowitz fan, it would, I suspect probably choose a more prominent one.

Kevin Higgins - December 1, 2012

Well, you’re not likely to get Richard Perle. So instead of an open no-holds-barred discussion in front of real people (as against dyed-in-the-wool political hacks) the SP prefers to ‘debate’ by having Cillian Gillespie post this – “he is quoting his praise of the neo conservatives, the bastards that murdered 1 million Iraqis, in this reading” – on a photo of me on the Facebook page of the MA in Writing students. If you really think that this convinces anyone, you really are living in a fantasy world. And, as fantasies go, it’s not even a good one. The invitation to debate, though, remains. The WSM’s publication, Irish Anarchist Review, takes a somewhat different view on the book in question to subcommissar Gillespie http://kfdoyle.wordpress.com/2012/11/27/kevin-higgins-review/

Mark P - December 1, 2012

While the consistency and vigour of your efforts at self-promotion are admirable in a certain way, Kevin, I’m afraid that they rather leave me cold. Fortunately, there’s a lot of ground between Richard Perle and yourself in terms of prominence, so if the Socialist Party ever does feel the urge to debate supporters of imperialist bombing campaigns it should have no difficulty finding someone.

Kevin Higgins - December 2, 2012

Well, why then do your esteemed comrades Mulcahy and Gillespie bother to go out of their way to attack such an irrelevance? People will draw their own conclusions on that.

Mark P - November 28, 2012

Lord save me from fantasists.

There is not any prospect of the ULA, or any socialist force, being “a real alternative” at the moment in the sense of a potential alternative government or in the sense of a mass party in the near future. Anyone “betting the house” on that would be a complete idiot.

Much of the independent left in Ireland is a small crew of nice people who want other people to “bet the house” on providing them with a congenial political home they can’t provide for themselves.

4. Branno's ultra-left t-shirt - November 28, 2012

According to the Look Left Facebook page anyway.

5. shay whelan - November 28, 2012

The socialist Party’s mortgage buyout program is 1930s New Deal thinking. Hard to take seriously claims of no solution to capitalism when the ideas put forward are exactly that.

The socialist party lost Clare Daly but kept Kevin McLoughlin. Wonder how that will work out…

6. Branno's ultra-left t-shirt - November 29, 2012

‘Much of the independent left in Ireland is a small crew of nice people’
I can assure you there is nothing nice about me.

Mark P - November 29, 2012

That’s why I said “much”.

LeftAtTheCross - November 29, 2012

And what’s wrong with nice? The opposite of nice is nasty. There’s nothing attractive about nasty people. I wouldn’t want them running my local GAA club let alone governing the state I live in.

7. revolutionaryprogramme - November 29, 2012

Hard not to see this article as part of the SP preparing the ground for a formal split from the ULA – as was their interventions at the ULA national branch council on Sunday.

Or if not going so far as a formal split at least making sure the ULA is held at no more than an electoral/parliamentary alliance while they concentrate on trying to build a party out of the CAHWT/CAPTA.



WorldbyStorm - November 29, 2012

There have certainly been some fascinating, if confusing, messages about the ULA emanating from its quarter over the past two months or so.

Julian Assandwich - November 29, 2012

As I mentioned above, my reading is the SP arguing for the ULA to move to the left. It’s opening up a political discussion. On a far more frequent basis than the SP, you call for a revolutionary programme, would you say you’re about to take your ball and go home? Or are you fighting to win people over? Thankfully, I’d say the latter.

revolutionaryprogramme - November 29, 2012

JA – I think you are looking at all this through very rose-tinted glasses.

Ask yourself what are the SP concretely proposing in terms of moving forwards towards a new party?

The answer is absolutely nothing.

They have made it completely clear that they see the CAHWT/CAPTA as their priority.

They describe the ULA as being in a “damaged state” and are opposed to electoral registration of the “ULA” as it could be interpreted as an indication that the ULA was moving forward towards the creation of a new party.

They continue their attempt to drive Clare Daly out. You are only fooling yourself if you think this one article represents a turn-around on that.

The TDs are unable to work with each other. This is true even on abortion where they are falling over themselves to thrust themselves into the limelight when for the most part this was an issue they showed no interest in giving any priority to previously – see for instance the programmes of the SP and PBP at the last election.

If this is combined with the SWP voting with their feet by prioritising PBP over the ULA then the assessment of most of the non-aligned that the ULA is weaker now that it has ever been is completely accurate.

Unless there is some major change very shortly then I think all of us in the non-aligned are going to be faced with the question of whether we want to stay with a project that only exists, at best, as a dysfunctional electoral alliance.

8. revolutionaryprogramme - November 29, 2012

Seems Clare Daly might be one of the people who want to keep the focus on the X-Case if this Irish Times report is accurate – http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2012/1129/breaking13.html. Got to say I think this is a mistake by Clare and not what I thought she was going to do. The time is right to move on to broaden the debate and for those who support women’s right to choose that should express itself in concrete demands for repeal of the 8th amendment and scrapping of sections 58 & 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

doctorfive - November 29, 2012

Exactly what she did yesterday in closing speech. And said the campaign to repeal the 8th starts now when speaking outside after.

revolutionaryprogramme - November 29, 2012

I stand corrected – just seen the transcript of the Dáil debate (https://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/ula-tds-argue-for-womens-right-to-choose/).

However I still think it is a mistake to be re-tabling the X-Case bill. Whatever bills the ULA tables on this issue will be voted down and they are therefore primarily propaganda exercises – the next bill should be calling for a referendum to repeal the 8th amendment.

9. Mick Hall - November 29, 2012

Can I ask a question, is there any real evidence of the ULA being “damaged goods” electorally. Or is this yet another example of attention deficit which periodically infects sections of the left.

It seems to me it is more than possible to work within extra parliamentary campaigns and campaign for and support the ULA.

Why when a comrade leaves a party/group, that organisation feels the need to beat them over the head is a left over from the Stalinist fallout of the first half of the 20th century which we can well do without.

Clare Daly’s political beliefs are little different today than when she was in the SP, all that changed was she no longer felt she could remain for obvious reasons and in truth I would guess the SP were pleased to see her go.

The SP comrades work alongside, productively, countless non party comrades without feeling the need to beat them. So she left the party, get over it, apart for not having a party badge she is the same comrade as she has always been.

Or is this as much about the ULA as it is Daly?

FergusD - November 29, 2012

But Mick, the comments posted here by Mark P and Jolly Red Giant don’t sound like they are “beating her over the head”, they sound appreciative in many ways and also regretful that she left. There is clearly some annoyance over the manner, and perhaps reason, of her leaving, but not “beating her over the head” – at least to me.

revolutionaryprogramme - November 29, 2012

Well you should have been at the national branch council meeting were “beating her over the head” pretty much sums up their approach.

Jolly Red Giant - November 29, 2012

The last thing that the Socialist Party wanted was for Clare Daly to leave the party – suggesting otherwise is (to be blunt) stupid. The National Committee of the Socialist Party attempted to engage Clare Daly in discussions on numerous occasions over the summer in an attempt to get to the bottom of whatever disagreements Clare Daly might have had. The leadership of the Socialist Party also wanted to ensure that the ongoing issue of Clare’s political support for Wallace. Clare Daly made no effort to engage with these discussions.

The membership of the Socialist Party is open and willing to work with any one on the left – including Clare Daly – on any issue. However, the Socialist Party cannot and will not be associated with any political support for Wallace.

As for the Socialist Party ‘beating her over the head’ – there is no such thing. Most of the discussion relating to Clare Daly is prompted by others – not the Socialist Party. Where the Socialist Party feels mistakes are being made it will point these out and attempt to engage in debate over these issues – but they are conducted in a fraternal and respectful way despite being on occasions quite sharp in their tone.

10. critical media review - November 29, 2012

The test for the Socialist Party and whether their call to move the ULA left is genuine will be whether their members engage with the project and branches. If they just publish an article with an abstract call without any actual engagement (ie going to meetings, actually speaking to members, putting forward concrete political policy and strategy), I think we will be able to report back in a month or two the article was nothing but hot air. Personally I don’t think the SP is to the left of the ula membership, I think the Sp are effectively neo keynesians in policy so I don’t forsee an issue with any their programme if they wish to actually put it to the membership. Personally I am taking the SP at their word and am looking forward to discussing and voting on their suggested policies and strategies.

pat - November 29, 2012

In areas where the Socialist Party is active and ULA branches and members exist, we have and will continue to engage with them. As far as putting forward concrete policy and strategy, we’ve done that more than anyone else in the ULA since the beginning, so we’ve more than past your tests.

As for the ULA membership being to the left of the Socialist Party, well we can say for sure that the other groups involved and their memberships are to the right of the Socialist Party, likewise for all of the other TDs, including Clare. Among the non-aligned, as far as I’m aware, only rp and at times some members of Socialist Democracy could be said to be on our left. Other than that, my impression of the non-aligned members is that they are generally soft on policy and programme and prefer a lowest common denominator type of politics.

Ed - November 29, 2012

“Personally I don’t think the SP is to the left of the ula membership …” becomes “as for the ULA membership being to the left of the Socialist Party …”. You need to engage with the arguments people actually make. And you’re probably not going to impress people with bald assertions like this: “We can say for sure that the other groups involved and their memberships are to the right of the Socialist Party.” I find it hard to stifle a yawn when I hear this kind of stuff.

For a certain kind of left group, everyone else is always to their right, by definition; anyone who leaves their ranks is ‘moving rightwards’, by definition; and of course, anyone who doesn’t agree with their precise political line of the moment is ‘soft’ and believes in ‘lowest common denominator type of politics’. I’m sure the SWP has exactly the same self-image and tells itself exactly the same things about other left groups and activists (in fact, I know it does). Other people manage to have strong political committments and argue for them trenchantly without adopting this holier-than-thou attitude or claiming to be infallible. It’s a more fruitful approach; certainly it’s more likely to win over people who are yet to be convinced.

LeftAtTheCross - November 29, 2012


pat - November 29, 2012

Okay, I’ll change the first line of the second paragraph to “as for the Socialist Party being to the left of the ULA membership”, and the rest still stands.

In fairness, I’m talking to someone who is a member of the ULA and therefore should be aware that in all discussions on economic policy the Socialist Party has been to the left of the other groups involved and therefore the other TDs, this has been documented.

By soft I mean that they don’t argue strongly for any position and are generally happy with some type of middle ground between PBPA and the Socialist Party. And no, I think you’re wrong about the SWP. They don’t argue for a further left programme than the Socialist Party, and generally don’t claim that they do. I’ve had menu discussions with them about these issues and have never heard such things.

To take form my comment that I’m claiming to be infallible is a bit of a leap no?

Mark P - November 29, 2012

There are very clear left-right divides in the ULA, between those who want the ULA to take up and advocate a break with capitalism and a socialist solution to the crisis, and those who want it not to do so, to be “broader”, etc.

There is a less immediate set of dividing lines, which don’t map entirely onto the divisions above between people whose project is ultimately about building a revolutionary party and people whose end goal is a SYRIZA like party of a more or less reformist nature. But at the moment, in a shorter term sense, the first set of divides are more important.

This is not a matter of “self-image”. It’s a simple matter of basic political honesty. Those who want the ULA to be politically less radical (primarily but not only the SWP), those who want it to be much as it is now, and those who want it to be more politically radical. This isn’t moralism, it’s a straightforward description of the spectrum of opinion in the ULA.

There’s nothing wrong with having those sort of divisions. I’d certainly expect them in a larger and healthier organisation than the ULA. But there is something wrong with the attitude of people who either want to pretend those divisions don’t exist or that they don’t matter. Sometimes that “something wrong” is simple dishonesty, as it mostly is from the SWP. Perhaps more often it’s misplaced Gerry Collins style fear that open disagreement will “burst the party”. This last sentiment tends to come from well meaning people who place a politically undefined “unity” at the centre of their outlook.

Pat is broadly correct that there are people “to the left” of the Socialist Party in the ULA. A handful of them. That doesn’t make them morally superior, still less does it make them correct either in general or in any particular debate.

hs - November 29, 2012

Firsty Pat the ascertation that the SP has been fully involved in ULA branches where they exist and are active is not true, certainly not in Dublin central.

On the point that ‘we are to the left of everyone’, well that’s fine if you want to believe it but that doesn’t excuse not engaging with the wider membership of the ULA.

At the delegate council SP members sponsored two of the fourteen motions. One was perceived as both being unworkable and an indirect attack on Clare Daly (which fell), and the second was on ULA tds working closer together (which passed). There were no motions from SP members on any wider political, economic or social issue.

Moreover the divisions between the SP and SWP are not simply left and right but also based on good old fashioned rivalry. Though that’s not to say there aren’t political differences that should be actually discussed by the memberships.

The narrative being developed (I imagine for internal use) that the SP are the ‘real’ left and everyone else is soft is yet to be tested by the SP outside of the steering committee. And I’m sure members of the SWP are told the same thing.

Finally I have a copy of ‘the socialist’ in front of me. Apart from the fact there is no programme (or even a where we stand section) revolutionary, transitional or otherwise. I see nothing in it that would be controversial with the membership of the ULA.

So in conclusion will we see the SP put some policies/strategies to the ULA branches and membership, rather than being told what our political position is?

Mark P - November 29, 2012

What an utterly dishonest post, hs.

There have been debates repeatedly at ULA events, and also on the steering committee on a range of political issues. Most recently over the budget statement, but going right back to the foundation negotiations of the ULA and to the first large ULA meetings. Consistently, the Socialist Party has advocated a more radical set of policies and a clearly socialist approach, and consistently this has been more or less strongly opposed by most others involved. This isn’t some new thing. It’s built into the DNA of the ULA: what we might call the PBPA approach of watering everything down to avoid presenting “barriers”, versus the Socialist Party’s advocacy of as high a level of political agreement as we can muster (in an organisation where those who oppose advocating socialist ideas would almost universally describe themselves as socialists in other contexts). There’s also a third point, somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, which is mostly concerned with attempts to downplay or ignore these disagreements as they might cause problems for “unity”.

Your consistent attempts to make regular attendance at your particular branch’s meetings into some kind of litmus test of sincerity is as self-regarding as it is stupid. Let’s be clear about this: I can name most of the active ULA independents off the top of my head. There isn’t some mysterious mass of ULA members of unknown views out there and certainly not in your branch.

revolutionaryprogramme - November 29, 2012

I think MP’s description of the spread of political opinion within the ULA is pretty accurate.

Ed - November 29, 2012

You both appear to be missing the point of what I was saying. The issue is not whether there are differences of opinion about the ULA that can be placed on a left-right spectrum; clearly there are. What I am talking about is the attitude that many left groups have that they are the only ones who are principled, consistent, and radical to their core, while everyone else is soft, timid and compromising. You find this attitude poking through very clearly in a lot of the rhetoric when things are being debated. And I have absolutely no doubt that this is also how the SWP see themselves in relation to the Socialist Party; regardless of what the PBPA programme is vs. the ULA programme, they would still consider themselves to be more left-wing than the SP, and cite this or that issue where their position is ‘harder’ (or so they say) than the SP’s one to demonstrate the point.

I take all of this with a pinch of salt. I want to see issues about the programme of the ULA debated in a serious way without anyone assuming that they have all the answers or adopting a holier-than-thou attitude in advance. These are really important, fundamental questions, too important to be used for cheap point-scoring. I don’t believe that anyone on the radical left in Europe knows what kind of programme is going to be fit for purpose over the next few years; things are changing very quickly, what was appropriate a few years ago wouldn’t be today, what’s appropriate today might not be in five or even two years. It’s going to be a steep learning curve for all of us, and the holier-than-thou mentality is going to be an obstacle: when left groups makes mistakes and squander opportunities, we should all be thinking ‘there but for the grace of God go we, what can we learn from this’, instead of ‘that could never happen to us, our pristine ideology will make sure of that’.

Mark P - November 29, 2012

No, I understand your point.

You are correct that it’s “traditional” for left wing organisations to place themselves “to the left” of others on the left at least in terms of self-image. And the underlying point that implies, that socialists tend to assume that being “more left” equals being correct and principled, is also true. I don’t in fact think that being “more left” is the automatically the same as being correct.

But when we talk about the ULA, and in particular we talk about the orientation and policies that various people think that the ULA should pursue, there factually is a left-right spectrum. That’s not moralism. It’s not self-image. And it doesn’t mean that those on the left end of the spectrum are correct simply by virtue of being on the left end of the spectrum. (That after all would logically lead to the assumption that Revolutionary Programme, who is probably the most “ultra left” ULA activist, is correct on every issue).

Within the ULA there are people on the left who want a more radical ULA, people on the right who want a less radical ULA and people in the centre who want things much as they are and see the task as being about filling in details (and who often see disagreements over these sort of issues as inherently worrying and divisive).

As I’ve already said, these divisions don’t necessarily map onto deeper, underlying, political divisions. The SWP for instance are the most “rightist” trend in the ULA when it comes to what sort of policies the ULA should have. They want it broader and think that raising socialist ideas creates “barriers” to wider involvement. But their excuse for this is that the SWP is the revolutionary party already and they see the ULA (or more accurately their PBPA front now) as a way to gather a pool of vaguely radicalised people to recruit. A more left wing ULA threatens that distinction. That’s different from the reasoning of those whose fundamental project really is about building an amorphous reformist left party, but in terms of arguments about where the ULA should go it has the same practical consequence.

And that’s what we’re talking about here. What should the ULA be, where should it orientate, what should it advocate. That’s where the left-right spectrum we are talking about here. It’s not about evaluating in some abstract moral way who is a wrong’un.

hs - November 29, 2012

come on Mark, you are continually making straw man arguments against independent members of the ULA, yet you are not prepared to put forward any policies which independents might actually agree with. I am beginning to suspect you are more comfortable dealing with a perceived right rather the actual membership.

pat - November 29, 2012


All of the policies that the Socialist Party put forward are “policies which independents might actually agree with”.

What more do you want?

Mark P - November 29, 2012

What on Earth are you talking about, hs?

The perhaps three dozen active ULA independents are not “the membership” any more than the affiliates and the TDs. And I have a pretty good idea of the politics of most of those three dozen. Just as I have a very good idea of what the politics of People Before Profit are and just as I have a very good idea of what the SWP advocate and why. The idea that my opinions here are based on a refusal to engage with any of the above is simply bizarre.

The ULA “independents” are not uniform in their views. There’s an occasional ultra-left in there, and an occasional person whose views are in many ways similar to our own. But the “bulk” of them, in so far as the word bulk can be used here at all, in my direct experience are primarily concerned with unity above all and the idea that we “need to get our act together” and create some kind of left party on just about any basis. They see the raising of sharp political disagreements as inherently problematic and threatening, and indeed instantly ascribe the raising of uncomfortable differences to “sectarianism” or to some kind of maneuvering. Just as you and others have done in this threat itself. Don’t tell me you don’t recognise this picture, hs. You know precisely what I’m talking about.

The ULA should openly advocate a break with capitalism and the creation of a socialist society (something the SWP explicitly opposes it doing and which none of the other TDs favour, with the possible exception of Clare Daly). It should do its best to raise demands for reforms in that context. That won’t always be possible to get across: It can be difficult to make complex arguments in aggressive sound bite driven media engagements for instance. And there is constant pressure on all of our spokespeople to be “realistic”. But it should be what we strive to do. Anyone who doesn’t agree with that is clearly and fundamentally to our right.

11. D_D - November 29, 2012

Or highest common factor perhaps?

12. Mick Hall - November 29, 2012


Your right “beating her over the head” was over the top.(Old habits die hard ;-) However when I read ‘some’ of the comments here and look back at how the SP and SWP behaved in the English Socialist Alliance, I do wonder whether the Leninist model of a democratic centralist party which was first drawn up in the first half of the last century, is flexible enough for it to work successfully for any length of time, within a broad left alliance/front/party.

I fear such a party may not have the ability to submerge its own interest into a broader vehicle of left class struggle. Time and again this inability ends in name calling and the spitting out of that old chestnut reformist, when what is really means is a sellout, a class traitor.

Lets look at SYRIZA, would they have gained more or less support if they had from the start proclaimed a full blooded revolutionary platform. My guess is less, but as they are, they have managed to take the class forward with them, gaining more support on the way. Is it really necessary for revolutionaries to always wear their revolutionary policies on their shirt sleeves?

As the class struggle becomes more intense surly that is the time to move from what some call a Left reformist strategy into a full revolutionary mode.

I think it is a mistake to believe the working class and its middle class allies need years of revolutionary schooling from the militants of ‘the party’ before they understand the game is up and all is to play for. History teaches workers instinctively understand when that moment has arrived.

At that time they will give their allegiance to the party they have learnt to trust. I doubt we will make that decision on who down the years followed the party line most ardently, more likely it will be based on who stood in the trench alongside us and did there best to lighten our load, whether in Parliament or on the street and who have the strength of unity to win the class struggle.

Unlike some, as there has never been a revolutionary transfer of power in a post WW2 western bourgeois democracy, I do not believe anyone has a roadmap. We are all doing our best as we see it, but as an old trade unionist I do believe left unity is strength, we have tried the 57 varieties and it has got us no where.

Comradely regards to all.

FergusD - November 30, 2012

I take your points. I think this is a very old problem – “revolutiionaries in a non-revolutionary period”, what do they do? Wasn’t this what Trotsky’s Transitional Programme tried to address? The problem is I don’t think you can just be a militant reformist (while reforms may be good) and then suddenly emerge from your chrysalis and shout “Revolution!”. It’s a very difficult problem. Alas, Trotsky’s approach was a strategy devised in 1938 and many adherents have a applied it without adapting to circumstances in a rather dogmatic way (the WRP for sure). I have no answers but I don’t think she being ” a better reformist than the reformists” is the right track.

Yes, the “Leninist” party model has lost of problems, and again was that not just a strategy rather than a basic principle? The biggest problem is that every group thinks they are the vanguard

revolutionaryprogramme - November 30, 2012

The concrete application of the TP does need to be responsive to changing circumstances but the basic methodology does indeed provide an answer to the problem of what revolutionaries do in a non-revolutionary period. See http://www.bolshevik.org/tp/index.html for an outline of the argument for the continuing relevance of the method of the TP.

John Foster - November 30, 2012

The Leninist party strategy was drawn up in a context of violent state repression – all the major leaders had served time for their political activities. The centralized party structure was in part a response to the threat to the party’s survival. In the absence of such state repression – such as today – the adoption of a Leninist strategy just comes across as silly.

There is a reason why Leninist parties in the UK and Ireland appear as fantasists to the rest of the population. They act like they’re living under the Okhrana.

revolutionaryprogramme - December 2, 2012

The Leninist political method does not simply equate with the organisational practices that developed in rresponse to being driven underground due to state repression. That is not particularly unique as compared to any other underground organisation. As far as I know none of the organisations that claim to stand in the Leninist tradition organise themselves in anything like this way today because they have not been driven underground (yet) by state repressionl

What is distinctive about the Leninist method is the commitment to the struggle for political clarity and collective political action.

John Foster - December 2, 2012

You’re ,missing the point RP. Your last line there about the commitment to the struggle for political clarity and collective political action could be said about the Home Rule Party under Parnell.

It is impossible to separate the Bolsheviks from the normative practices of their day. Yet, that is exactly what Leninist parties do today – they threat as static the fluidity of human society, thinking that organisational principles are rocks to throw at the enemy, when in fact they are (at least should be) tools that change and develop in relation to the societal dynamics which surround them.

You don’t do any of these things, and neither do the SP and SWP, which is why the vast majority of the Irish working class have absolutely no time either for you or the two parties you claim are not pure enough.

13. hs - November 29, 2012

Put them forward in the branches so they can be discussed and voted on, and then forwarded to the delegate council and voted on. . If someone on the steering committee then vetoes any of these positions, fine you can write articles about that and you’ll be supported.

Mark P - November 29, 2012

And back it is to your obsession with using attendance at your branch as a litmus test of sincerity. I’m sorry, hs, but I really don’t give a shit if anyone regularly attends your branch from the SP, and I don’t think it has any bearing on anything.

These issues have already been discussed, at large ULA gatherings, in negotiations about the ULA, in some ULA branches, on the steering committee (which is to say, the agreed decision making structure), amongst the TDs and their offices, and elsewhere less formally, on an ongoing basis since the ULA was founded and before. We know where the SWP stand, and so do you. We know where the other TDs stand, and so do you. And we’ve a pretty damn good idea of the range of opinion amongst the small number of active independents too.

There is no mystery about the range of political preferences of our allies. There’s no great unknown mass of views we haven’t been exposed to. It is frankly mischievous of you to pretend otherwise, to pretend that anyone is going to be surprised by other forces views in an organisation as small as the ULA at this point.

The odd thing is that I actually have less problem with those people who are willing to argue the toss, pushing their view that the ULA should be less radical, not openly socialist, not present what they see as political “barriers”, than I do with people who are intent on obscuring these issues in the name of unity.

Julian Assandwich - November 29, 2012

Looking forward to hearing your report from raising this at your next local ULA branch meeting.

critical media review - November 29, 2012

So you have decided in advance everyone’s position on everything and see no need for further discussion? I agree we know much of the leadership of the Sp and SWP’s position but neither are in the habit of including their memberships in decision making.

critical media review - November 29, 2012

That’s his above again BTW my phone has a split personality!

critical media review - November 29, 2012

Also what I am asking for is the opposite of obscuring the issues but for you to actually discuss them in the ULA.

14. llarkinite9 - November 29, 2012

The central problem for the ULA and why its potential will not be realized is that both the SP and SWP see their own parties as the One True Church with the true and correct perspective on building the temple of socialism. Building their own One True Church is the primary project for each of them and salvation is only available to the workers if they evolve the right consciousness and join their particular church.
They seem to believe that building the ULA is not a primary goal and that even if successful sure it would only be a centrist party anyway. But should the model for the ULA not be the early Bolshevik party with healthy factions debating the way forward in a genuinely engaged way?

Whatever happened to transitional demands? Surely we can all be united around a set of transitional demands that the working class can rally around and in the process of demanding those changes there will be a leftward move by our supporters as the Right digs in to prevent the implementation of those demands. Can there not be unity around those transitional demands and lets leave out the childish bickering about who is the most left-wing. ( note: please refer to Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder by V.I.Lenin.)
All the members of the ULA I have met believe capitalism is a rotten system and that a socialist society is the way forward for humanity. Our job as activists is to bring people into that debate and not present them all or nothing options. Effective demands and a well worked out democratic socialist alternative in a comprehensive manifesto are what people will weigh us up on. Either we rise to this challenge or remain mired in the purest of marginalized streams.

As for engaging with the ULA my experience is that this is at the most minimal tokenist level by the SP members. We now also have the SWP diverting its energies into the PBP brand and the net effect is that seemingly the ULA project is being shelved until Election Time and we may have a sudden reconversion to the merits of of its existence.

Yes, the ULA needs to be more campaigning but demanding this while not engaging with it to actually seriously build the ULA is a little disingenuous. Its time all parties, groups and individuals within the ULA got engaged in a way to build it. Otherwise arguments about purity and strategy will disappear like smoke while we watch the support for SF and other rise.
All talk about historic opportunities and breakthroughs will sound hollow and nostalgic if after 6,7 or 8 years of Austerity we stand around wondering why the workers wont support the One True Church in sufficient numbers.

1913 centenary is around the corner. Lets unite behind the ULA banner and make it a year of restoring socialist ideas and alternatives to the centre of Irish politics.

Mark P - November 29, 2012

“All the members of the ULA I have met believe capitalism is a rotten system and that a socialist society is the way forward for humanity. “

Yes, and privately they will all tell you that. And they’ll get very insulted if you imply otherwise. But in practice, most of those outside the Socialist Party are against the ULA publicly taking that position. Let me be as clear as possible about this: I don’t care in the slightest how strong a socialist someone is in their heart of hearts. I care about what they actually advocate.

The rest of your comment rests on the fantasy that if only we all prioritised “building” the ULA above building the affiliates that there would be large numbers of people flocking to that “alternative” who don’t flock to the Socialist Party or People Before Profit. The problem with that assumption is that it is completely and utterly false in current conditions, as demonstrated by the lack of numbers who were willing to get actively involved in the ULA right from the start (and, as supporting evidence, the lack of numbers willing to get involved in People Before Profit, Enough, Right to Work and the other fronts of the month).

revolutionaryprogramme - November 29, 2012

MP, I think there might be more of the non-aligned than you think who would be prepared to support the ULA publicly saying that captialism is a rotten system and that a socialist society is the way forward for humanity – probably it is a majority.

But this would be in the same way that the SP does this – as an abstract aspiration at the end of a programme that in terms of its concrete proposals is left-reformist.

Most of the differences the bulk of the non-aligned would have with the SP are organisational and to do with perceived political culture rather than being programmatic in that sense.

critical media review - November 29, 2012

To turn that point on its head neither the SP or the SWP are growing and in my opinion don’t have the potential to grow much further. In what I will freely admit is an opinion, only an organisation which is multi tendencied and has open discussion (where people may even change their minds) will have any potential. None of the fronts (nor the parties) do so, the hope is the ULA can move beyond this. While the objective conditions are paramount, the subjective leaderships are probably as important in the current juncture.

Mark P - November 29, 2012

I know that you think that CMR, but I think that you are engaged in wishful thinking.

Both the Socialist Party and the SWP (I’m less sure about the SWP, but strongly suspect) are in fact growing at the moment.The SP has just had its biggest conference since I joined. But they are certainly both only growing slowly.

That’s not because their structures prevent people from getting involved. It’s because there are currently only small numbers of people who are looking to get involved in left wing activism in an ongoing and organised way. The ULA did not attract a significant swathe of extra people. Nor did People Before Profit. Nor did Enough. Nor did any one of half a dozen initiatives you care to name. Nor do the approaches of other left groups from the WP to the WSM.

Your whole approach on this point consists of magical thinking. There is not a magical organisational formula that will allow us to skip around the reality of our society. Simply put, there hasn’t been a particularly big audience there.

As you know, I reject your caricature of the way in which the Socialist Party functions. Although I’m rather amused to see this trotted out (sorry) in a thread which earlier on saw some fan of Clare Daly’s appeal to JRG and I on the basis that we’d both disagreed with (“fallen foul of” even!) the majority of the SP and its no doubt terrifyingly evil leadership on various issues. But this is a side issue. The core problem of the ULA is that it consists of just the Socialist Party, the SWP and a few dozen others, and between those forces there are important political disagreements.

critical media review - November 29, 2012

I’ll take your point and agree to disagree, however my ‘caricature’ of the SP comes from well over ten years membership. I think you are wrong in saying there is no issue with the subjective factor. For example the news that the SWP are planning to run a candidate against Joan Collins and the SP run one against Clare Daly can hardly be blamed on objective conditions? That is an issue solely down to poor political leaderships by both groups. And negates the whole point of even the most low level electoral alliance.

Mark P - November 29, 2012

If Clare was still in the Socialist Party we’d almost certainly run a second candidate in Dublin North. Once her council seat was secure, we immediately started doing so in Swords. Clare is unlikely to be under any electoral pressure in Dublin North (unless something goes spectacularly wrong for her in the meantime), regardless of whether there’s a Socialist Party candidate.

So frankly, I have zero sympathy for people whining about the Socialist Party standing a candidate there. A more interesting question for you would be whether Clare is planning to dig up some proxy candidates to stand against the Socialist Party in the local elections. That might actually have an effect on the ULA’s chances if she does do so.

WorldbyStorm - November 29, 2012

Mark P, I don’t think from reading cmr’s thoughts that s/he was ‘whining’ about the SP running a candidate against CD. But it certainly does point up the contradictions of the ULA as a means of making an ‘electoral splash’ to borrow the term you use in your comment at the foot of the page.

Mark P - November 29, 2012

His comment was pretty clearly a complaint. My response was to point out that his complaint isn’t based on anything reasonable.

Final decisions about where the Socialist Party intends to stand candidates haven’t been made yet, but, I would expect Dublin North to be one of the places the SP stands. There is no reason to believe that Clare Daly is under any electoral pressure in her constituency, and I don’t think that CMR thinks that she is either, so his complaint amounts to little more than kneejerk moaning about the ULA affiliates.

Subject to assessments on the ground about the situation closer to the election (which may of course change things), I would broadly expect that there might be second candidates in all of the seats where the ULA currently has a TD except for Dun Laoghaire. It’s particularly odd to hear these sort of complaints from people who in other circumstances are significantly more optimistic about the possibilities open to the ULA than we are.

Julian Assandwich - November 30, 2012

Will the SP be running a No. 2 along Joe Higgins in Dublin West?

Mark P - November 30, 2012

As I’ve already said, final decisions haven’t been made about any of this, but I would expect very serious consideration to be given to doing that. Again, subject to better formed analysis, closer to the ground and closer to the time.

WorldbyStorm - November 30, 2012

A ‘complaint’ isn’t synonymous with a ‘whine’. Using the latter language demeans a line of argument. Using the former at least allows for some engagement.

15. Mick Hall - November 29, 2012

I am shocked a seasoned militant would dismiss the ULA after it has been going for how long, a couple of years or so unless I’m mistaken, come on that just will not wash. To make an electoral splash as the ULA undoubtedly did and then expect it to transfer into a mass movement from the off was never on.

I’m not a politician by even I understand patience is a necessary attribute whether a reformist or revolutionary.

Mark P - November 29, 2012

I don’t dismiss the ULA, Mick. I’m a member of it. I just refuse to engage in wishful thinking about it rather than a cold assessment of where it is and what it’s prospects are.

And no, the ULA didn’t make an electoral splash. It did at best only slightly better than its components would have done without it.

critical media review - November 30, 2012

Mark do you think the SWP are being sectarian in running Brid Smith where Joan Collins is a sitting TD? If the ULA ran two candidates together that would be risk in itself, but if managed properly might be okay. But we are both around long enough to know they won’t, they’ll be rival candidates which is a complete waste of small resources and could cost seats. And yes it is a complaint as it is an indefensible act of sectarianism. I do have some faith that the SP will see that it would be a waste of everyone’s time and resources and won’t run a rival candidate.

Mark P - November 30, 2012

I’m not familiar enough with DSC to have a firm opinion, CMR.

My inclination is to say that no, it isn’t sectarian for the SWP to give serious thought to running Brid Smith in what is a five seat constituency with two Labour incumbers and a Fine Gaeler. I would expect Joan to be quite firmly entrenched, and I would also expect the electoral situation to be somewhat more favourable to anti-establishment candidates (of many kinds) in three years time.

That’s all subject to a better informed analysis of the situation closer to the relevant time. It may be that Joan isn’t safe and then my answer would change. I think, for instance, that it would have been presumptuous and foolhardy to run two candidates before Joan got in last time around. To be fair to the SWP, they didn’t do that. I think that your knee is jerking here and you don’t have any real reason to think that Joan or Clare are in electoral danger.

Jolly Red Giant - November 30, 2012

I agree with Mark – and if the SP were to run a candidate in Dublin North then it wouldn’t be a case of running a rival candidate against Clare Daly it would be a complementary candidate. I expect Clare to be elected comfortably. However, it is also clear from the fallout of her resignation from the SP and her political association with Mick Wallace that there is a section of the Dublin North electorate who voted for her the last time but would not do so this time.
On top of that the Socialist Party does, in my opinion, have a responsibility to those people who voted for the party as a political organisation and not for Clare on a personal basis. Depending on political developments it could not be ruled out, with dublin North moving from four to five seats – that the ULA could win two – it was a better prospect six or eight months ago – but it is still a possibility (as it would be in DSC)

critical media review - November 30, 2012

hmm suddenly my wild eyed optimism about the prospects for the ULA is pessimistic on this question? joe higgins is firmly entrenched in Dublin west why don’t we run an SWP candidate there :-)

Jolly Red Giant - November 30, 2012

If the SWP want to run a candidate there then they are open to put the suggestion to the ULA steering committee. The Socialist Party are considering running two candidates in an effort to win two seats. If you believe that the SWP running a candidate in DW would be beneficial in such circumstances then provide your evidence. There is a possibility of both Joan Collins and Brid Smith winning a seat for the ULA in DSC.

revolutionaryprogramme - November 30, 2012

JRG – so you are saying that the decision on where to stand candidates lies with the ULA steering committee rather than the constituents? Well good luck trying to get support for these extra candidates past the veto of the non-aligned…

And frankly I find all this talk of the ULA being able to run two candidates in various constituencies (even leaving aside the fantasy that the SP running against Clare or the SWP running against Joan would be in the nature of “complimentary” candidates) to be somewhat at odds with the SP version of reality where there is not enough working class support to be able to even think of committing to the process of creating a new workers’ party.

If there is a enough support to seriously consider getting two candidates elected in any constituency then there should obviously be enough support to directly pose the question of creating a new workers’ party.

Sorry guys it doesn’t all add up.

pat - November 30, 2012

There is in fact a precedent for the ULA to stand two candidates in the same constituency, specifically Gino Kenny and Rob Connolly in Dublin Mid-West. So no, rp, the suggestion is not at odds with anything the Socialist Party has said.

revolutionaryprogramme - November 30, 2012

Pat – so you are seriously telling me this was something that the SP positively supported?

And that these were two “complimentary” candidates, supporting and encouraging each other under a joint ticket?

Dr.Nightdub - November 30, 2012

The idea of both Joan Collins and Brid Smith running in DSC isn’t that far-fetched. As a five-seater in 2011, we returned 1 x PBP, 1 x SF, 2 x Labour and 1 x FG.

The FGer drew most of her votes from Terenure where they’ve been whinging for years about being lumped in with us oiks. the Constituency Commission is granting their wish and transferring them to their spritual home of Dublin South or whatever it’s gonna be called now.

That’ll leave DSC as a 4-seater and a far more working class constituency at that. It’s quite plausible that one of the sitting Labour TDs (more likely Conaghan than Eric Byrne) will get it in the neck for the government’s austerity programme, which’d open up the possibility of Brid Smith taking a seat. I do think it’d be vital for both her and Joan Collins to both run as ULA though – having one ULA and one SWP just wouldn’t make sense.

strontium90 - November 30, 2012

How is it clear from the fall out of her resignation hat there is a section of the Dublin North electorate who won’t vote for her again? This is simply a statement of opinion with no factual evidence to back it up. The SP wrote to all CD supporters in Swords after she resigned – 6 non SP people attended – 4 current supporters of CD (incl. Brian Greene) and 2 others who have stayed with CD. They bought none of the lies. The two public meetings in the constituency one with Paul Murphy and one on abortion this week have been disasaters.

The SP have every right to stand against CD in the next GE – and have every right to stand any number of candidates in the local elections just as CD has an equal right to stand candidates in the local elections.

In Dublin West the SP have a real problem. Higgins is tired and lacks any sort of dynamism or energy. His performances since being re-elected have been very poor and way below the standard he set himself – he was completely outshone in the fiscal treaty campaign by Paul Murphy and Clare Daly which was widely recognised. From what I hear he is quite demoralised and doesn’t want to stand again. They can’t and won’t win two seats in DW – but they don’t trust Coppinger to win on her own. Nulty over took her at a local level and outpolled her in the by-election – they have a real fear here.

Lastly just for accuracy on the SP ‘biggest conference in years’ propoganda that Mark P has been extolling. The NEC of the SP claimed that there were 130 people at the SP conference – most recent SP conferences have had around 120 peope attending – so this hardly represents a significant increase. Anyone with eyes and a brain knows the SP is not growing. The two recent Dublin city centre meetings on abortion and the austerity had less than 100 people between them – some of the lowest attended city centre meetings the SP have organised in years indeed in a decade I would suggest. Where are all these new members???

pat - November 30, 2012

Rp, yes, that’s what I’m telling you.

strontium90 / patfrank80,

Your anonymous sock puppeting nonsense is entertaining, I’ll give you that. Given that you work closely with Clare I suppose the views you express on this thread are indicative of Clare’s own views? Sorry to let you down, but those views are little more than wishful thinking.

I’m interested in what lies you’re referring to though. Surely the notions that Clare left the Socialist Party because she wanted to build the ULA, or that she doesn’t politically support Mick Wallace have been proven false by now, no?

If it wasn’t clearly untrue to begin with, that fact that Clare last week manoeuvred undemocratically to use ULA private members time to put forward a Bill that wasn’t in the name of the ULA, as was agreed, but instead went out of her way to make sure that Wallace was included, is testament to the veracity of the Socialist Party’s comments on her resignation.

Mark P - November 30, 2012

Ah, having been caught in a number of lies while trying to give the impression of “inside knowledge”, patfrank80 now returns with a new pseudonym and a new set of little lies. No thanks, old bean, I took you at face value once, which was once more than I should have. I’m not biting again.

Mark P - November 30, 2012

“just as CD has an equal right to stand candidates in the local elections”

CMR and other independent ULA members who have been complaining about the possibility that the Socialist Party might stand a general election candidate in Dublin North, may just possibly want to think about what that means. Particularly, coming from someone so close to Clare that he/she casually posts claims about how long it has been since different individuals have spoken to her.

I can look forward to hearing the same outrage should Clare dig up some proxies to, for instance, stand against sitting Socialist Party councillors in the nearer future? Right? And you’ll be making your arguments with the same vehemence? And with the same insinuations about sectarianism? I mean I’d hate to think that some of our well meaning independent friends would operate a double standard about things like this.

16. WorldbyStorm - November 30, 2012

Just one thought. I’ve not the time to go back through every comment above, but while robust engagement is grand – albeit I would ask everyone to keep an eye on the moderation guidelines and to think about the issue of not saying anything that might damage any left formation/s, whether SP, ULA etc as distinct from critiquing them, under no circumstances is anyone to indicate actual identifiable offline identities of those participating -that’s immediate permanent banning territory.

BB - November 30, 2012

Mark states “The core problem of the ULA is that it consists of just the Socialist Party, the SWP and a few dozen others, and between those forces there are important political disagreement”. On the contrary, the core problem is that the leaders of the SP/SWP have been putting sectarian self-interest (promoting their own groups) far above now lost opportunities for mobilisation.

Anyone who puts a priority on united action must surely make their group interests secondary to the building of a militant party oriented to the working class. Of course, such a party will not have political agreement on a lot of things. But this can be managed by a party which encourages political discussion via tendency rights and decisions made by votes at conference.

People want a party that is capable of addressing their concerns in a united, easily identifiable way. But it ain’t there, because of SP/SWP refusal to create one. Of course, SP/SWP want to build a party, as long as it is THEIR party. SP have done little to build ULA beyond the tokenist presence suggested by another contributor. SWP appears to do more, albeit in full-timer/admin/editorial stuff, if only to ensure control. And now it looks as if the non-aggression electoral pact is gone.

The squandering of opportunity to take advantage of the crisis is shameful and disaster beckons. It is disingenuous to state that “The ULA did not attract a significant swathe of extra people”. They weren’t ever invited into the promised-time-and-time-again party. It took a lot of pushing and pulling by the non-aligned to enable discussion via the National Delegate Council and to get out ULA statements and actually distribute them at demos. Requests for party registration were dumped.

Nobody denies SWP/SP the right to build their own groups. Every group wants to promote its own politics and rightly so. But not at the expense of promoting the ULA on the key issues we agree on. I do not expect groups to dissolve themselves into a new party. However, I do expect that the ideal compromise is for far-left socialists and pluralist/broad party activists to live with a line that they may not fully support while at the same time they could put their ideas OPENLY to bigger numbers moving left. If we can’t make this our priority, then this unparalleled opportunity will be missed.

We are told that most independents are “primarily concerned with unity”: yes we are and we make no excuses for that. The accusation that we seek to “create some kind of left party on just about any basis. They see the raising of sharp political disagreements as inherently problematic and threatening ..” is inaccurate. The non-aligned passed the following motion: “… the forging of a party where minority tendencies have the right to exist”. Exchange viewpoints and put policy decisions to the vote, or failing that, live with the veto exercise until such time as the leadership has earned its stripes.

Mark P - November 30, 2012

This is an utter fantasy, BB.

There were upwards of 50 public meetings organised around the country to set up branches. There were some decent, in unspectacular turn outs. But the curiousity to go to a public meeting does not indicate a willingness to get involved in ongoing socialist activism, as you should know, given your experience. The turnout for the first branch meetings was generally very low.

People were invited, they didn’t come. And you would have to be a lunatic to imagine that it was because the independents hadn’t yet been given steering committee representation, something pretty much none of those people would have known about either way. It wasn’t lack of an invite. It wasn’t lack of effort. It was a lack of interest. Sometimes, I find myself shaking my head at the absolute principled refusal of some of our allies to base their claims and assumptions on anything other than determined wishful thinking. If only there was more effort and more resources (both of which are, of course, to be provided by the affiliates!) then everything would be better because willpower is apparently all we need.

There’s no “broad party” because there’s no broad swathe of people involved. It’s that simple. And neither I, nor the Socialist Party, have the slightest interest in building the ULA as a little party style left group which isn’t qualitatively larger than the Socialist Party but which has much softer, weaker, politics.

17. D_D - November 30, 2012

The pre-budget 2013 statement of the ULA (summary), launched today, opens with the line:

“The ULA proposes a socialist alternative to the budget proposals of the government and the other parties in the Dáil.”

revolutionaryprogramme - November 30, 2012

And then goes on to outline a left-reformist programme for how to manage Irish capitalism in a fairer way that will supposedly “take the burden of the crisis off working people, improve their lives and revive the Irish economy.”

Associating the phrase “socialism” with this kind of warmed over left-reformism is shocking for two groups who claim to be “revolutionary socialists”.

Julian Assandwich - November 30, 2012

“The ULA proposes a socialist alternative to the budget proposals of the government and the other parties in the Dáil … The problems we are facing are not an aberration but are a manifestation of a deep structural crisis of global capitalism … A radical alternative is required … The alternative we propose will not be implemented by the current parties in the Dáil or by the Irish state, which consistently defends the status quo. The working people of Ireland will have to challenge the vested interests of big business and the Irish establishment in order to bring even the modest proposals above into being … [ULA] advocates a Europe-wide and international movement of workers, women, the unemployed, young people and pensioners to challenge the failed doctrine of austerity and private profit.”

revolutionaryprogramme - November 30, 2012

That is all fine and dandy as abstract aspirations but ALL the concrete proposals in the budget submission are presented within the context of the continuation of capitalism.

I guess words only have the content we give them but I always understood “socialism” to mean a fundamentally different socio-economic system from capitalism. this budget submission does not attempt to present the case for that new system, instead it’s concrete proposals just present a nicer way to run capitalism.

Julian Assandwich - November 30, 2012

Well, as it mentions and advocates the need for an international workers revolution to get those things…

revolutionaryprogramme - November 30, 2012

Saying there needs to be an international movement to “challenge the failed doctrine of austerity and private profit” is not advocating an “international workers revolution” when the things that it concretely proposes get done are ALL within the framework of continuing capitalism. A radical reform of capitalism is NOT the same thing as a revolution to bring socialism into existence.

LeftAtTheCross - November 30, 2012

RP, are you really suggesting that a pre-budget submission should contain a call for proletarian revolution? It’s difficult enough to connect with people when there’s such a low level of class consciousness without making the problem worse by making obtuse political demands.

Julian Assandwich - November 30, 2012

Commenting on the ULA’s pre budget statement Socialist Party/United Left Alliance TD for Dublin West Joe Higgins said:

“This statement for me is not about how I think the capitalist system should be run. The system itself is crisis and is failure from the point of view of working class people, low and middle income as well as the unemployed, pensioners and students. What the statement highlights is that economic activity as it is organised under this system continues to make a small minority obscenely wealthy and that if the economy was organised in a different manner the basis would be there to overturn the austerity and meet the needs of people. None of this, not the cancellation of the debt or the taxing of wealth, will be achieved by reasoning with the political establishment or the troika. Instead it has to be struggled for and if such a struggle takes place the resistance that would come from the rich to having their privileges challenged would make clearer to ordinary people the need for a fundamentally different type of society. For me that is a democratic socialist alternative to capitalist crisis. ”

Mark P - November 30, 2012


It is of course worth noting that these are Joe Higgins comments and there is nothing similar in the comments of the other three TDs, all of whom confine themselves to anti-austerity arguments.


Yes, you are correct that line is in the ULA submission. It and the other more radical parts are there because the Socialist Party pushed vigorously for them to be there and would not otherwise have been.

D_D - November 30, 2012

Mark P: “Yes, you are correct that line is in the ULA submission. It and the other more radical parts are there because the Socialist Party pushed vigorously for them to be there and would not otherwise have been.”

Grow up

Mark P - November 30, 2012

D_D, why don’t you go get copies of the various drafts of the statement from RP or EC? You drew attention to the leftist slant of the budget statement because you thought it illustrated the common radicalism of the ULA. It is just as important to point out how that content got there. As you can easily check, it got there because the Socialist Party fought for it in the context of a much less radical draft produced by the SWP. Feel free to check.

While you are at it, I invite you to compare the four sets of comments by our TDs.

revolutionaryprogramme - November 30, 2012

Having seen the earlier drafts of the budget submission it is clear that the SP did present a more left-wing version (though I would argue this was just in terms of quantity rather than quality) – though the final version is something of a compromise between the SP & SWP.

revolutionaryprogramme - November 30, 2012

LATC – well there are ways to do that without perhaps using that exact term but yes I do believe that the idea of the working class needing to take power does need to be got across.

It is quite possible to make these arguments without isolating yourself from the wider workers’ movement who as yet don’t support anything close to that – I certainly don’t seem to be having any trouble working alongside the famous “ordinary people” in my local CAHWT campaign in Cobh for instance.

llarkinite9 - November 30, 2012

it is really depressing to follow through the logic of rp’s position. Effectively all you need is a revolutionary programme and along come the masses when their consciousness catches up with the program me. I’ve been waiting for nearly 30 years for this to happen and there’s not even a sniff of it happening anywhere. Take a look at the results in the most recent 6 British by elections. Excellent growth conditions for revolutionary programmists and yet they are hovering between 1-2% of public support despite Labour’s rotten role in government in recent times. Ironically the discredited Labour Party are romping home in most of those elections.

Clearly a revoultionary programme isn’t enough.The ULA needs a programme capable of building serious levels of support for a left wing workers’ party. It can offer both its interim programme and also develop a revolutionary set of proposals for constructing a society under workers’ control.

This is not to say that we postpone a discussion on how to build socialism to the future but we need something to offer the working class right now. With an ongoing crisis and an ongoing healthy internal debate in the party on how to build a new society the issue of a revolutionary programme will come to the fore as the debate on socialism evolves. That debate will grow sharper and sharper if a mass workers party takes power on a left reformist program me and will really take off when the establishment goes all out to block the implementation of what you call the left reformist programme. The mass workers party at that stage should be more than open to full revolutionary solutions at that stage!!

We need to look at revolution as a process and the development of revolutionary consciousness as the key process within that process. And all processes involve developments. Presenting a perfect revolutionary programme and waiting for the masses to make the big leap forward is not how this process works in the real world.

LeftAtTheCross - November 30, 2012

+1 llarkinite9.

It’s not a binary choice between reform and revolution, it’s a temporal process, where reforms have an impact on class power by building confidence in struggles and creating awareness that there is in fact a viable alternative, confronting TINA and winning.

revolutionaryprogramme - November 30, 2012

llarkinite9, as anyone who actually knows me will appreciate. I do not think it is simple a question of having a revolutionary programme. it is necessary to participate in the campaigns of the working class for reforms but the key question is what revolutionaries argue for while doing that. This is where the method of the Transitional Programme comes into play. It combines both a programme for how to fight for those immediate demands with the need for workers power.

As regards the issue of why the working class hasn’t posed the question of revolution in the past period no-one really has the answer to that. But as the number of people applying the method I outline has been pretty tiny I don’t think that can really be blamed.

Variations of the SP/SWP approach have been much more dominant in the past 30/40 years so if you want to criticise a method then…

LeftAtTheCross - November 30, 2012

RP, has the TP method ever lead to gains for the working class?

revolutionaryprogramme - November 30, 2012

Well I’d argue it was the method of the Bolsheviks and although it remained isolated and was therefore defeated the Russian Revolution does stand as a very big gain in my mind.

Other than that it is hard to evaluate the issue of its direct influence. That political method was continued by the forces around Trotsky but they were weak and nearly destroyed by the combined forces of Stalinism and fascism. Then after the war they mostly disintegrated with an internal political cancer the tradition calls Pabloism.

There were some gains short of revolution as a result of the activity of adherents to the method – probably the most notable being the Trotskyist leaders of the teamsters in Minneapolis in the mid-1930s.

I would also like to think of myself as a personal adherent of the method who applies it without making too many errors of either the sectarian or opportunist kind. I can’t claim responsibility for any particularly obvious clear-cut gains for our class but I like to think my contribution has mostly been on the positive side of that scale in terms of my involvement in immediate campaigns and I hope that I have been able to contribute something to the struggle to rebuild a revolutionary movement based on the general method of the Bolshevik political tradition.

18. D_D - November 30, 2012

Programmateers always have to be a step to the left. It is impossible to win their debate. It is premised on the rest of us being reformist or centrist so they must always adopt a lefter stance no matter what the Queen’s English says in our statements.

If we called for an indefinite general strike it should be a call for insurrection. If we called for insurrection it would not be soon enough.

Don’t attempt to connect or persuade, just hand down the hard cold tablets of stone and if no one is particularly interested in these “concrete proposals” (never mind about persuasive alternatives, feel the revolutionary width) it doesn’t matter because the revolutionary message (or this particular one) will have been safely imparted in all its purity to waft futiley into the evening air.

It would be interesting to see any detailed popular statement on the budget from the progammateers: workers’ red guards, armed demonstrations, soviets, the dictatorship of the proletariat, the dismantling of the army and police, the first 30 decrees abolishing private property in the productive forces, workers control in industry, the freezing of all bank accounts above €100,000, the opening of the files of the Department of Foreign Affairs, a national minimum wage of €600 per week, the declaration of a 32 county Workers Republic. Why not? No revolutionary programme, or detailed socialist statement, is complete, or even adaquate, without any of these things, surely? They would otherwise be abstract and in the context of capitalism.

revolutionaryprogramme - November 30, 2012

D_D, Well I have attempted a couple of rough drafts of such a programme – http://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/for-a-revolutionary-socialist-programme-2/ and http://www.bolshevik.org/Leaflets/Irish_crisis_09.html – feel free to critique them.

But of course the real question for my critics is what programme should be put forward if a revolutionary one (whatever exact content that may contain) isn’t appropriate?

The answer can only be a reformist programme. Some of those who do so are consciously reformist and that is fair enough but some who do so claim to be revolutionaries and that I really don’t understand. Why lie to your fellow workers about what you believe is necessary?

19. D_D - December 1, 2012

RP, And a rough draft of a statement on the budget? The real question is why should a socialist, or even a ‘revolutionary’ socialist, intervention into the budget and the surrounding coverage, and one that is trying to win over some new people, include the full litany of revolutionary demands, and, if not, which of these ‘essential’ revolutionary demands can be dropped? Do you, rather than “lie” to the workers, state that, for instance, the dropping of a property tax or the reversal of the cuts to home helps, can only come after a revolution?

There have been reforms and victories “in the context of capitalism” since the 18th century. Yes/no?

critical media review - December 1, 2012

Mark P, wouldn’t it be better if the various statements and discussion about the ULA pre budget statement came before the decision was made rather than after? But there’s me just harking on about power structures, representation, bueacracy and democracy again :-)

pat - December 1, 2012

I can see why that could be better, although you’ve said nothing about the content of the budget statement itself. In fact nobody except rp has, and he was involved in discussions before it was produced.

critical media review - December 2, 2012

I think the budget statement is neo Keynesian reformism, which reflects the two organisations who wrote it. I think however the key point is the repudiation of the debt which is an extremely radical demand. I am not sure if a pretty budget statement is the place for a revolutionary economic and social programme.

A revolutionary programme would have to be worked out over a long period in a dialectical fashion by the ULA and its membership and groups. I would also point out neither the Sp nor the SWP have ever done this not presented such a programme. Neither party has move beyond a sort of mass nationalisation form of socialism (ie run and organised by a political elite in the confines of capitalist political economy). Neither have ever had anything to say about worker self organisation, or the issue of power and the state. Which I think is a reflection of the structures of both groups and a tendency towards left labourism.

critical media review - December 2, 2012

That’s obviously ‘pre’ budget statement, I have a self organising phone :-)

pat - December 2, 2012

Thanks CMR. So aside from vague generalities you’re not sure what you think should be in a pre-budget statement, that’s useful.

And you think that a “revolutionary programme would have to be worked out over a long period in a dialectical fashion”. Not the most groundbreaking idea I’ve ever heard, but okay.

I think you’re missing an important point if you’re expecting a revolutionary programme to be developed by the ULA, mainly that there are significant elements of the ULA who are openly hostile to the idea of a revolutionary party or programme, Joan Collins for example, the SWP in a different sense. That’s not to say that the politics of those elements couldn’t be overcome in the debates and discussions that take place in the struggle, but aside from the Socialist Party, there is virtually noone in the ULA who is willing to challenge the conservative politics of those elements.

Can you give me an example of where the Socialist Party has advocated a “mass nationalisation form of socialism (ie run and organised by a political elite in the confines of capitalist political economy)?

revolutionaryprogramme - December 1, 2012

I am not opposed to participating in campaigns for reforms, and in fact the bulk of my political time is taken up with such things, currently the CAHWT. That is not the difference between us but whether the programme presented to the working class should pose the question of working class power in a coherent fashion.

I am well aware that winning positive reforms, or even limiting the impact of negative reforms, is possible short of a revolutionary transformation of society. But I am not a reformist who thinks that is all that is possible, I think that a socialist transformation of society is possible and as well as participating in the immediate struggles of our class I will make that argument for the need to more fundamental transformation of society. In my experience even if people don’t agree with me they respect my honesty as I am not a sectarian who makes agreement with my overall programme a prerequisite for common action over immediate demands.

This is what the term “revolutionary socialist” means to me. Someone who believes in the overthrow of the capitalist system and its replacement with socialism and presents a programme to achieve that. Who fights for the immediate interests of our class but not by limiting the programme I present to just a radical alternative around those immediate demands and thereby sowing reformist illusions.

20. revolutionaryprogramme - December 1, 2012

My report of today’s ULA national steering committee may be of interest – https://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/2012/12/01/report-of-ula-national-steering-committee-meeting-dec-1/

21. critical media review - December 2, 2012

Pat: Well one obvious one would be the enabling act which was to the core of Militant. I don’t pretend to know all the answers, but after 14 years in the SP/CWI I don’t think you have all the answers. The difference is I believe that programme should not be decided in secret by an unaccountable leadership and told to us afterwards.

Mark P - December 2, 2012

The “enabling act” was not “to the core of Militant”. It was an explanation of how a revolutionary situation might come about which would not get the explainer immediately expelled from the British Labour Party. It wasn’t part of the Irish Militant’s language and has never been mentioned so much as once by the Socialist Party. As you should know, given your years of membership.

On your wider point, I see that as usual you prefer to concentrate on issues of process rather than content. There’s nothing undemocratic about a statement by the ULA TDs being decided by negotiation. The ULA is not a political party (and of course no other political party discussed their pre-budget statements in their branches to start with). There is a clear political distinction between the content of the Socialist Party’s proposed draft and the content of the SWP’s proposed draft (as even RP, who is to put it mildly of somewhat different politics can see). That distinction reflects the wider political differences which exist in the ULA.

And on an unrelated note, I understand that Clare Daly was on the radio today talking about something entirely unrelated to abortion… and once again repeatedly dropped the name of a certain TD colleague.

critical media review - December 2, 2012

I was talking about the process in the SP. The ULA for all its problems does offer some agency for the membership and the decision making is far more transparent.

critical media review - December 2, 2012

I discuss process and structure because in the end that is where the political content comes from and as you know I believe it is a key problem of the Irish and British left.

critical media review - December 2, 2012

And that it is political, it is in the end a key area of Marxist methodology.

Mark P - December 2, 2012

I don’t think that process is unimportant, CMR, I just don’t think it’s the only thing that’s important. And I don’t use it as an all purpose excuse to avoid talking about actual political disagreements.

There are important political disagreements in the ULA. You have done everything possible in this discussion to avoid commenting on those political disagreements, preferring to play them down or change the subject.

critical media review - December 3, 2012

How do you figure that, structure is one of the main political disagreements in the ULA?

Mark P - December 3, 2012

But it’s not the only political disagreement. What’s more, the structures appropriate reflect the nature of political disagreements in the organisation and the balance of forces within it. Discussing structures in abstraction is a cop out.

critical media review - December 3, 2012

Structures are where issues of difference are resolved. However structure is generally something bureaucracies don’t like to talk about, and I think the SP leadership and its online advocates do anything to avoid dealing with that issue

Mark P - December 3, 2012

That’s just silly, CMR. I’ve no problem discussing issues of structure, as you know. I just don’t agree with you about those issues (or at least about many of those issues) which is a different thing.

I do however think that talk about structures makes most sense in the context of a wider discussion about the context those structures are to work in, both in terms of the forces involved and the disagreements those structures are to mediate. It’s not abstract. So for instance, I tend to find discussions of the kind of structures the ULA should have which take as a starting point something other than the reality of the ULA as an alliance between two highly organised groups and a small number of individuals either naive or disingenuous.

The ULA has significant disagreements on political issues within it and little in the way of a membership beyond two organised forces. It has structures which reflect that fact. If you want a change of structures, you need to first change the situation the structures are to govern.

critical media review - December 3, 2012

That would be the dialectical issue of course. I agree that you cannot discuss one without the other and of course you can’t have the kind of structures I would want without both the agreement of both the SP and the SWP, which I believe is inherently political . And I agree with you to the extent the the SP won’t involve itself deeply into the ULA because its not considered big enough (though I still think there ate issues of power and fiefdoms). And I am sure if the ULA did grow you would reprioritise it. I still have a lot of respect for the SP. However I don’t believe we will get a working class mass party unless we actually work towards creating one (the subjective question). Waiting for the objective conditions to be perfect or the unions to set up a party means the hard left will probably be too late. I’m also convinced masses won’t come around a party they have no say in. The Sp and SWP will always have political differences, otherwise two seperate organisations would be unjustifiable. But if a new party you can both work within isn’t created I think it will express a failure of leadership. You both claim to be on the revolutionary left, effectively the vanguard, you both seem to agree on setting up a wider party which unites leftists, revolutionaries and reformists, we have an opportunity with the ULA to do so. I see the structures as a way of dealing with the political questions between you and the SWP (and others). I don’t expect this to develop overnight but as I in a time and place where I might have some influence on the question, that for me is going to be my main preoccupation.

pat - December 3, 2012

CMR the Socialist Party isn’t waiting for anything, and certainly not on the unions to set up a party! At this point in time, building a mass campaign against austerity is likely to be more beneficial for potentially building a new mass party than, anything the ULA can do. We’re trying to make sure that potential is realised, our subjective contribution if you will.

The main problem with the ULA is not the disagreements between the Socialist Party and the SWP, or anyone else so your over focus on structures is not really productive.

revolutionaryprogramme - December 3, 2012

Pat, that is completely disingenuous. The SP are explicitly waiting for something and have said so over and over in the ULA. It is usually described as something like an upsurge in class struggle that would be reflected in people wanting to join the ULA.

John Noble - December 3, 2012

The SP’s plan up north is to have a trade union party, with NIPSA as the base. So, as always, the SP contributors here are spinning yarns.

revolutionaryprogramme - December 3, 2012

As someone who studied this question in some depth as research for the IBT pamphlet ”
Marxism vs. ‘Militant’ Reformism” (http://www.bolshevik.org/Pamphlets/CWI/CWI_contents.html) I would challenge the assertion that the call for an enabling act was not core to the perspective of the Militant. I can’t speak for internal positions on it but as regards the official public publications this was very much the case.

I would actually go further and argue that even though the phrase “enabling act” has long since been dropped the method outlined of a socialist party winning a majority in the bourgeois parliament and then proceeding to pass legislation to nationalise the economy remains the main one they present to the working class as the way socialism will come about.

For instance Peter Taaffe, the central leader of the SP/CWI, offered exactly this perspective in a 2006 interview with BBC Radio 4’s Shaun Ley:

SL – ‘You still think the revolution will come?

PT – ‘Well, what do you mean by revolution?

SL – ‘The overthrow of capitalism.

PT – ‘Well yes, a change in society, established through winning a majority in elections, backed up by a mass movement to prevent the capitalists from overthrowing a socialist government and fighting, not to take over every small shop, every betting shop or every street corner shop — in any case, they are disappearing because of the rise of the supermarkets — and so on, or every small factory, but to nationalise a handful of monopolies, transnationals now, that control 80 to 85% of the economy.’
(The Socialist, 29 June 2006, http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/2006/446/index.html?id=militant.html)

This is also exactly the view that working people would get from reading SPI election material.

The SP/CWI tries to spin this as simply undercutting the violence-baiting of anti-socialist demagogues, but Taaffe’s promotion of pernicious Labourite fantasies about a parliamentary road to socialism only serves to politically disarm working people. Trotsky explicitly warned:

‘[H]eroic promises to hurl thunderbolts of resistance if the Conservatives should “dare,” etc., are not worth a single bad penny. It is futile to lull the masses to sleep from day to day with prattling about peaceful, painless, parliamentary, democratic transitions to socialism and then, at the first serious punch delivered at one’s nose, to call upon the masses for armed resistance. This is the best method for facilitating the destruction of the proletariat by the powers of reaction. In order to be capable of offering revolutionary resistance, the masses must be prepared for such action mentally, materially and by organization. They must understand the inevitability of a more and more savage class struggle, and its transformation, at a certain stage, into civil war.’
(Where Is Britain Going?, 1925)

critical media review - December 3, 2012

An interesting blog post here (linked to more on the same subject) on the issue of the Irish left and the state:


pat - December 3, 2012

“It is futile to lull the masses to sleep from day to day with prattling about peaceful, painless, parliamentary, democratic transitions to socialism”

Hence the; “backed up by a mass movement to prevent the capitalists from overthrowing a socialist government and fighting…”

Of course 2006 was not 1925. So being “capable of offering revolutionary resistance” and ensuring that “the masses must be prepared for such action mentally, materially and by organization”, wasn’t the immediate issue it was then, do you accept that?

Your fixation on this sentence from an interview is quite something.

The election of a socialist government is one way that a revolutionary struggle can develop, that in itself wouldn’t mean a revolution or a socialist transformation, but it could be an important part in such a process. A revolutionary movement in Greece today would most likely happen that way, for example.

If your argument rests on the idea that the Socialist Party doesn’t advocate working class struggle to overthrow the capitalist system, than your argument is just not valid.

revolutionaryprogramme - December 3, 2012

Come on Pat, read what Trotsky is actually arguing – “[H]eroic promises to hurl thunderbolts of resistance if the Conservatives should “dare,” etc., are not worth a single bad penny.”

Of course 2006 is not 1925, although 2012 is a lot closer… But in any case then all you are talking about is the form of the preparation Trotsky describes:

“In order to be capable of offering revolutionary resistance, the masses must be prepared for such action mentally, materially and by organization.”

For instance in Ireland today to help build the consciousness of the need for that preparation it would make sense to point to the examples of state brutality that all militants are aware of – as I do in the programmatic framework document on my blog (https://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/for-a-revolutionary-socialist-programme-2/):

“Of course as soon as the fight for our demands begin to pose a serious threat to the wealth and power of the capitalists, they will use every means at their disposal to stop us – the courts, the Gardaí, the army, all the forces of the capitalist state apparatus. The capitalist state exists to defend the privilege and wealth of our capitalist rulers – just ask the Shell to Sea activists, or the student demonstrators in Dublin last November, or the Thomas Cook workers whose workplace occupation was broken in 2009.”

But then you guys consider that to be just so much ultra-left rubbish don’t you. But I wonder which approach Trotsky would consider was more in line with how he approached the question?

And for any non-Trotskyists I realise this is not proof of anything in-of-itself but it is of some interest in a discussion between two claimants to being the consistent continuators of Trotsky’s political tradition.

LeftAtTheCross - December 3, 2012

“And for any non-Trotskyists I realise this is not proof of anything in-of-itself but it is of some interest in a discussion between two claimants to being the consistent continuators of Trotsky’s political tradition.”

Not really.

Ed - December 3, 2012

As a non-Trotskyist who still has a fair bit of respect for Trotsky and the Trotskyist tradition, I’d have a few observations:

1) When Trotsky wrote the passage quoted above by RP, violent revolution (and violent counter-revolution) was part of the everyday currency of European politics. The Bolsheviks had come to power in Russia eight years earlier; there had been attempted communist uprisings in Germany (thrice), Hungary and Italy after WWI; there had been an attempted right-wing coup in Germany and a successful one in Italy. Ireland had gone through its own experience of violent insurrection, albeit a nationalist one rather than a socialist one. Bourgeois democracy was very weakly implanted, challenged from both left and right; in most countries, it wouldn’t survive more than a decade or so. So that was the context in which Trotsky was speaking.

In 2012, on the other hand, we have a very different context. Bourgeois democracy has become the dominant political form in Europe; all of the bourgeois democracies that were established after 1945 have survived, and they’ve been joined by ex-fascist states in Southern Europe and ex-communist states in the East. There have been no successful left-wing revolutions in any bourgeois-democratic state; France came nearest in May 1968. There have also been no successful right-wing coups (again, France came nearest with the army-settler coup during the Algerian war which brought de Gaulle to power, but he established a different kind of bourgeois democracy, not a dictatorship; there were also plenty of rumblings about a coup in Italy during the 70s if the Communist Party came to power through the ballot box, but that was never put to the test). The only genuine revolution to have occurred in Western Europe since 1945 was the Portuguese one of 1974-5, and that took place in a country which had been under fascist rule for half a century (it also ended in the defeat of the most radical forces).

So that alone would suggest the need for a very different way of addressing these questions when we’re trying to reach a broad working-class audience.

2) That doesn’t mean for a moment that socialists shouldn’t be talking about the class character of the state and its repressive function. I personally would have no problem with the formulation given by RP above; we should be using every chance we get to remind people about the Garda violence in Mayo, about the Ian Tomlinson case in Britain, the violence against the student protests etc. We should also be reminding people about the class bias of the judiciary. It’s never too soon to be talking about this stuff, and the ULA should be thinking hard about how to make these points without sounding like we’ve landed from another planet (which I’m afraid is what it would sound like if the ULA had a line in its programme talking about the need to establish a workers’ militia in order to defeat the bourgeoisie in a civil war).

I hold no brief for Taaffe or the Militant, but I just can’t accept the reading of his statement above as the ‘promotion of pernicious Labourite fantasies about a parliamentary road to socialism’ which ‘only serves to politically disarm working people’. If he says that we need ‘a mass movement to prevent the capitalists from overthrowing a socialist government’, that leads straight on to a whole series of questions: someone might well ask in response ‘do you really think that’s credible, that anyone would try to overthrow a left-wing government if it had a parliamentary majority? Isn’t that just paranoia on your part?’ And the answer would be ‘no, certainly not, I think it’s a very real possibility, because …’ and then you’re into the class character of the state and its institutions, the role of the army, courts, police etc.

3) Another very important point about the difference between the context in 1925 and the context today. When Trotsky was writing, there were mass Communist Parties in a number of European countries (Germany, Italy, Czechoslovakia) with an explicitly revolutionary programme. Even the British CP—which was one of the smallest and weakest in Europe—was bigger than most far-left groups in Europe today, with stronger roots in the working class. Most of the social-democratic parties were officially committed to Marxism and to the idea that capitalism would have to be replaced by socialism (even if they saw that in terms of a peaceful, parliamentary transition).

Today, the CPs have collapsed for the most part; the social-democratic parties abandoned the idea of replacing capitalism with socialism a long time ago, and they’ve now even abandoned the idea of reforming capitalism, they’re currently dismantling the legacy of social-democratic reformism everywhere they find themselves in government. So the idea of a transition to socialism—peaceful or violent, parliamentary or through an insurrection based on workers’ councils—just doesn’t have the concrete, practical reality that it had in the 1920s (or in the 1970s for that matter, when Eurocommunism was a serious political force, the left wing of the British Labour Party was strong and getting stronger, the French Left was talking about a ‘rupture with capitalism’, etc.). RP would describe SYRIZA as a reformist party, perhaps a left-reformist one; if so, they’re the only left-reformist party in a generation which has had a real prospect of winning an election, forming a government and putting their programme to the test. So against that backdrop, the question of power—how to get it and what to do with it—is going to be pretty abstract. The immediate priority for socialists is to revive the idea that we can go beyond the limits of capitalism.

revolutionaryprogramme - December 3, 2012

Ed, I accept that 2012 is not 1925, with the main difference being the lack of a parallel to the Russian Revolution.

However I think your defence of the CWI on this issue lacks one important element – that they never seek to popularise the ideas of working class power in opposition ot the bourgeois state.

In fact the only concrete programme they put forward for dealing with the capitalist repressive state apparatus is “community control” with its implicit reformist understanding of state power.

Read their election material – what does it imply about how the working class will take power? Through winning a parliamentary majority.

The point of the Trotsky quote is that this is nothing new. He confronted exactly these kind of politics back in the 1920s.

Saying that “a change in society, established through winning a majority in elections, backed up by a mass movement to prevent the capitalists from overthrowing a socialist government” fairly clearly posits any violence by the bourgeoisie as a potential for AFTER the socialist government has been elected to the capitalist parliament and starts passing versions of the good old “enabling act”.

I understand Trotsky to be saying that this kind of thing politically disarms the working class from coming to the necessary understanding of the need to build our own organisations based on proletarian democracy (which will eventually develop into the workers councils that will be the basis of the real workers government) alongside organs of working class defence (which will eventually develop into the workers militia at the heart of the workers state). And that these things have to be built as soon as possible because the bourgeoisie are not going to quitely wait until we have elected this socialist government before they start attacking us.

And they attack my attempts to do that, which you refer positively to, as mad ultra-leftism. Not by presenting an alternative way to get those ideas across in the current situation (and I am not saying the particular phrases I have used are the last word by any means and indeed welcome any suggestions for improving them) but instead by attacking the very idea of even trying to get those ideas across.

LATC, my apologies :-)

Ed - December 3, 2012

I think I’ll be repeating myself if I reply at length, but two quick points:

1) I have no particular interest in ‘defending the CWI’, I’m not a supporter of theirs, or indeed a Trotskyist. I haven’t read all their documents about the way socialism will, in their view, come about. I was merely stating my belief that Taaffe’s quote in the interview linked to above doesn’t bear the weight you put on it.

2) I think your recognition that 2012 is not the same as 1925 tends to slide out of view very quickly, for example when you talk of how Trotsky “confronted exactly these kind of politics back in the 1920s”. I’m not sure who in particular Trotsky was referring to at the time but it would certainly have applied, for example, to the Austro-Marxists; their line was to say that violence should only be used defensively, if the bourgeoisie acted first.

But that was at a time when the possibility of violent revolution and counter-revolution was a real, flesh and blood reality in Central Europe: there were attempted communist risings a short distance from Austria in Munich and Budapest after the war, there might have been an uprising in Vienna. It wouldn’t have occured to anyone of any persuasion in the workers’ movement to deny that violent revolution was a possibility: the reformists and centrists, Bernstein, Kautsky, Adler, Bauer etc. argued that violent revolution was undesirable and unnecessary, not that it was a utopian pipe-dream.

European politics was thoroughly militarised in the 1920s (there had been one destructive war on the continent a few years earlier, and another one would break out a decade later). In the Weimar Republic, even the Social Democrats had their own paramilitary wing. Can you imagine any of the modern centre-left parties following their example? The only places in Western Europe where a major political party has had its own armed wing in the last few decades are Ireland and Euskadi, and in both cases it was because of a national conflict, not a class one.

So to describe Taaffe’s argument as ‘exactly’ the same as those made by (for example) the Austro-Marxists in the 1920s is just completely unhistorical. It ignores the context in which political arguments are made. Ideas don’t have a timeless quality as radical or conservative; arguments for universal suffrage and republicanism that were extremely radical in the Europe of 1848 are now completely mundane. It works in the opposite direction too: when the political compass has shifted dramatically to the right, ideas and arguments that were rather moderate in an earlier period can become very radical in their practical implications.

I think I’ve ended up doing what I said I wouldn’t do at the beginning of this post, so I should probably leave it there …

revolutionaryprogramme - December 3, 2012

Ed, I accept that my use of “exactly” was not accurate for the reasons you outline. But there is something importantly similar about the political method being applied in my opinion.

As regards who the politically equivalent political forces Trotsky was referring to were, as I understand it, those in around the “Two and Half International”.

I agree that the situation in Ireland and internationally is different but I don’t understand the point. Are you arguing that the situation is so different that revolutionaries should not be seeking to raise the ideas of working class power?

But then I don’t understand why you said you agreed with me about the need to expose the role of the capitalist state and indeed the way I had done so in my rough programmatic outline.

Ed - December 3, 2012

RP, if it was the Two-and-a-half International he was referring to, then that would have included the Austro-Marxists. I was questioning the relevance of that quotation from Trotsky to the present situation. I’ll be repeating myself from now on, I really don’t think I could have made my argument on that point any clearer than it is already.

You infer from this a belief that ‘revolutionaries should not be seeking to raise the ideas of working class power’ which I don’t hold. I think the problem here is that you consider the model of the Bolshevik revolution (or the understanding of that revolution that was codified in the early documents of the Communist International) to be the only way in which ‘working-class power’ could ever be established. I don’t agree, for reasons stated above.

Whatever path may lead to working-class power in Europe today, it won’t be the one sketched out in ‘State and Revolution’ or ‘The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International’, which are both products of a certain time and place that bears little resemblance to the conditions in present-day Europe. There’s still a lot we can learn from the Marxists of the early 20th century, but ultimately we’re going to have to find our own way through unmapped territory.

revolutionaryprogramme - December 3, 2012

Well I guess we will have to agree to disagree.

I don’t believe that we have entered a qualitatively new period of capitalism where the general lessons of the past – such as the need to prepare our class for the attacks of the capitalist state and the need to take power on the basis of our own organs of power – have lost their relevance.

Maybe I am wrong and everything is so different that there is a new way to working class power but then I would struggle to explain much of what is happening in the world – like Greece – as the crisis deepens and capital shows its underlying barbarity with more and more clarity.

WorldbyStorm - December 3, 2012

Ed, the position you describe is very similar to my own in relation to these matters and it’s a great overview.~though many of the structural elements are similar to then, as regards capitalism, the contexts are now so different that it’s very difficult to orient ourselves by what happened in 1917 or indeed even the 1930s.

Your thoughts on the sheer dearth of Marxist revolutions – arguably anywhere, but most certainly in advanced capitalist states (with the partial and very specific exception briefly of Portugal, perhaps) are very convincing. One would think that if the route had any hope of success at least once since 1917 we’d have seen something better than the very very nascent and undeveloped situation in France in 1968.

I also think there’s a fundamental issue as regards the working class itself. As you suggest, in the 1920s and perhaps as late as the 1960s at a real push, there was a level of consciousness that was self-referential, coherent and able to mobilise. In a way I’d argue that eurocommunism was the last gasp of that. But now it’s not just a case of trying to persuade working women and men to socialism but to left social democracy so far have we fallen behind from where we were (though clearly not in this state – which seems disturbingly ahead of the curve in that regard in relation to a depleted and marginalised left of whatever stripe).

Which suggests that the gulf yet to be travelled and the efforts necessary to convince people can’t be rooted in the discourse or methods prevalent when social democracy and Marxism were at the height of their powers. It just doesn’t seem likely that they can work.

That said I don’t really know what can, which is why I have considerable respect for those – whatever my differences on approaches – who keep plugging away at it, like RP, etc, but what I fear is that we’re shifting rapidly to a US situation where the further left and the social democratic left are totally marginalised and have no effective leverage in the system.

LeftAtTheCross - December 3, 2012

WbS, to argue that the social democratic Left is totally marginalised is I think an exaggeration. Maybe it depends on the hair-splitting over the word “totally”, but I’d be inclined to believe that its too early to argue that the unions and community sectors are completely without influence. Without backbone yes. As for the further Left, well marginalised is one word. I agree fully with your statement that the argument begins in making a convincing case for left social democracy as the starting point Leftwards. Anything more than that is just comfort zone stuff.

WorldbyStorm - December 3, 2012

That’s a very fair criticism, they’re with influence but without backbone. I think at the start of the austerity drive they completely sold the pass (well, actually before that but you know what I mean). Then there was a chance for them to carve out even a mildly oppositional stance, not just rhetorically but in terms of anti-austerity actions. And moreover if they’d had any clue they’d have explicitly presented a challenge that would have emphasised their concern for private sector workers etc etc – not just to gain support outside their traditional PS strongholds but because it’s the right thing to do.

But it worries me that again this is like the US, today they have some. Ten years from now, fifteen, it could easily be like the US Democrats where they’re part of but nowhere near driving the situation.

22. D_D - December 3, 2012

Ed, excellent as always.

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