jump to navigation

Anarchist Lens article… January 18, 2013

Posted by guestposter in Irish Politics, The Left.

“on political events of last year.

Kevin Doyle, the author, looks at them from an anarchist perspective:

Clare Daly’s was elected to the Dáil in 2011.  A founder member of the Socialist Party, Daly was initially hailed as a bright new voice for Ireland’s parliamentary Left. But in strange and controversial circumstances, Daly left the Socialist Party in 2012 on foot of her defence of fellow TD and tax fraud, Mick Wallace.  In this edition of The Anarchist Lens, Daly’s about-turn is examined from an anarchist point of view.

About these ads


1. D_D - January 18, 2013

The direction of this analysis is the rightward drift of socialists in parliament. It would need to be expalined why Clare would move away from the Socialist Party – to the right as is claimed – who remain (supposedly) to the left while also remaining in parliament (Joe being far longer there).

A more relevant and productive analysis might have been in the direction of the break up of monolithic “revolutionary” organisations and the growing trend to broad but radical left parties and formations.

The connection to Mick Wallace is a complicating and certainly a real factor and it would be in everyone’s interest if it was played down by all concerned. But the conflicting narratives (Clare backs Mick v. departure for wider alliances) are both true IMHO, and indeed I heard Clare indirectly acknowledge this herself.

And, yes, a “rightward” slope might be a real factor too. Tacking formally and strategically to the right is anathema only to those who must be lefter than thou and pure as the driven snow. No NEPs for these anchorites.

Engagement with parliament undoubtedly involves dangers for socialists. And advantages: the prominant platform offered. Abstentionism (from parliament, trade unions, the mainstream media, campaigns, etc.) also involves dangers: isolation and perpetual marginalisation.

WorldbyStorm - January 18, 2013

I think the analysis in the piece is interesting, particularly in that I hadn’t read an anarchist view on these matters before, but I’d tend to your view.

I think it’s also fair to say that I don’t think CD has been tempted by the perks of being a TD. Anyone who knows any Independent TDs, particulary those who take an oppositional and campaigning stance like CD and a number of others will be well aware that it’s a tough old job which offers no prospect of the perks of office, and is best seen, as you say as a platform – as well as IMO a frankly vital link in assisting other workers in the prosecution of struggles large and small.

I’m very sympathetic to anarchist approaches, but in societies where the focus is so clearly on parliamentary politics and there’s no critical mass evident for alternative structures to develop it doesn’t seem entirely useful to dismiss the former. That said there are many roads and a multi-stranded approach seems good (indeed I’d love to seem some effort to build movements that explicitly had within them those stands and where people could choose either without having to worry overmuch about the other, which of course is entirely utopian but… ).

Mark P - January 18, 2013

D_D has over course been fervently hoping for the “break up” of “revolutionary organisations” to be replaced by soft, confused, less left wing, “broad parties” for decades now and is no closer to that goal. Looking at Clare Daly’s solitary defection to a less radical position through that lense is shameless wishful thinking. Although I’m glad that D_D retains enough self awareness to acknowledge that the real issue (Wallace) was a key factor, even if he insists on trying to award his wishful thinking equal priority.

I understand that Clare and D_D may soon be in the same organisation within the ULA. If that happens I look forward to him reporting back to us how his earnest advice that the Wallace connection should be “played down” is received and acted upon. I promise not to laugh too hard.

The Doyle piece isn’t bad in many ways, and it’s useful to point out the enormous pressure elected office puts on radical activists to moderate, to be “realistic”, to step away from arguing the more difficult parts of their beliefs, to treat political enemies as “colleagues” and socialise with them, to win media approval, to “grow up”. These pressures go much further than simple financial benefits (and indeed Clare Daly didn’t take financial benefits). But a rather major flaw is that it treats these pressures as if they were some Anarchist insight as opposed to commonplaces on the revolutionary left. The difference is that the non-Anarchist sections of the left can see the benefits (ably outlined by D_D) which go alongside the risks. It is also worth noting that many left wing reps have over the years not been compromised.

Ed is correct that the attempt to collapse the views of all forces which use elections to advance their politics into the pursuit of a parliamentary road to socialism is essentially dishonest.

D_D - January 20, 2013

Mark P’s ire has fueled a flight of imagination. He elaborates:

“I look forward to him [me] reporting back to us how his earnest advice that the Wallace connection should be “played down” is received and acted upon. I promise not to laugh too hard.”

All protestations by the Socialist Party of the urgent need for the left and the ULA to distance themselves far, far from the toxicity of Mick Wallace can now, in the light of their invitation to Dublin (counter summit, 15-17 February) to that most toxic of agencies Tommy Sheridan, the Terminator of the Scottish left, only be seen as largely a lever against Clare Daly.

Mark P - January 20, 2013

What an irrelevant and silly attempt to score a point while avoiding the main thrust of the post you are responding to. Try harder next time.

Branno's ultra-left t-shirt - January 20, 2013

Any clubs you can recommend for Tommy while he’s here?

WorldbyStorm - January 20, 2013

I don’t know. Without going into the rights and wrongs of the individual case Sheridan is such a provocative/controversial figure on the left that he certainly seems to be an esoteric choice for a speaker, so I don’t think D_D’s point is that silly.

As regards another thought, what evidence is there that Clare Daly has moved to a ‘less radical’ position simply because she’s left the SP (and while there’s some truth in her leaving – as distinct from defection – being solitary, it’s not like she was an inconspicuous member).

Mark P - January 21, 2013

That’s a rather strange question WbS.

The politics of the ULA (broad left) are to the right of politics of the Socialist Party (revolutionary Marxist). In so far as Clare now presents the politics of the ULA as her own she is presenting a point of view that is less left wing than she previously did. Still very much left wing, but less radical. This isn’t simply a theoretical point: I am unaware of Clare arguing, for instance, for a socialist tranformation of society at any point since she left the Socialist Party. Instead she restricts herself, on each occasion that I’ve seen her since, to presenting arguments around particular issues (often, it should be said, with considerable skill).

Your question seems to contain an unexamined assumption that when one position is further to the left than another that the more left wing one is always to be preferred. And that therefore it is dismissive to describe someone or some force as being to the political right of another. That’s not really the case. I obviously think that it is a bad thing for a Socialist Party member to migrate to “broad left” politics, but someone who, for instance wants to see a party that leaves open the question of revolution or reform might see that same rightward motion as a good thing because they see the Socialist Party as ultra-left. From the point of view of an Anarchist or a Left Communist, (or Revolutionary Programme!) I’m “to their right”.

As for D_D’s point it was a silly jibe. Sheridan, whether one likes him or not, or approves of him or not, or believes him or not, is a socialist activist. Mick Wallace is a property developer at the centre of a major tax scandal, and also, incidentally, the kind of individual who trots out the usual “entrepreneurial” right wing guff about being a job creator when he is criticised by people on the left. Wallace is also a reasonably important figure in Irish politics (and a minor one in the Irish building industry), while Sheridan is only likely to irritate a handful of lefties in mourning for the SSP.

WorldbyStorm - January 21, 2013

Nothing strange about it and as regards ‘unexamined assumptions’, spare me that sort of stuff please. We’re not talking about what I believe or don’t believe but about what you wrote above. It’s a logical question following on from your words, you know, the loaded terms such as ‘defection’ and ‘less radical’. It beggars belief that you actually believe the stuff you just wrote above about ‘it being dismissive to describe someone or some force as being to the political right of another’. You admit it yourself, ‘I obviously think that it is a bad thing for a Socialist Party to migrate to ‘broad left’ politics’. Precisely the politics that you then ascribe to Daly – ie not arguing for ‘socialist transformation’, ‘less left wing’, etc.

I was more curious as to how you judged that to be the case. To be honest you haven’t demonstrated anything that would indicate that she has actually shifted rightwards – the absence of your knowledge as to whether she has or not mentioned revolutionary transformations appears moot, I can’t say that listening to her speak both in the Dáil chamber and outside it while she was still a member of the SP that she seemed to focus on that overly much, if at all. And you implicitly say it yourself, she could as easily be a ‘revolutionary’ socialist in the context of the ULA and outside the SP as revolutionary programme is.

The point re Sheridan is not that it’s precisely like with like as regards Wallace, and I never said he was, but that he is controversial, and some might regard him as provocative. He’s certainly an intriguing, if not downright odd, choice of speaker. There’s also the small point of the history of his participation and after in the SSP (and not the issue of the court cases) and how that might be perceived by some of your current ‘allies’ in the ULA given their hopes for its development.

revolutionaryprogramme - January 21, 2013

MP, there is no substantive difference between the politics of the ULA (to the extent that is actually codified) and those of its two component organisations – all falling within the realm of a left-reformist version of socialism.

Just because the SP may be more likely to refer to an abstract socialist transformation of society does not make you revolutionary in any useful sense of the term as that can only be judged on the basis of the programme presented to the working class.

On that basis the SP is clearly left-reformist.

Perhaps you really believe that the SP is a revolutionary organisation and is involved in some clever application of the political method of the Transitional Program by which you are engaging with working people on the basis of their current consciousness, that is for the most part, at best, left-reformist.

But that just makes you opportunists – hiding your revolutionary politics until the time is judged to be right to reveal them. The only difference with the SWP being over the degree of hiding specific elements of that supposed revolutionary programme. Certainly it has nothing in common with the method of the TP as originally developed by Trotsky.

doctorfive - January 21, 2013

Mark P

Still very much left wing, but less radical. This isn’t simply a theoretical point: I am unaware of Clare arguing, for instance, for a socialist tranformation of society at any point since she left the Socialist Party.

Are many examples of anyone doing this on any sort of national level or platform?

Instead she restricts herself, on each occasion that I’ve seen her since, to presenting arguments around particular issues (often, it should be said, with considerable skill).

Instead of repeatedly doing this?

Jolly Red Giant - January 21, 2013

Alan – you are actually proving the point that Mark was making.

From the perspective of the spartoid tradition that you come from then clearly the Socialist Party and Clare Daly are to the right of your ideology. In fact from your perspective the Socialist Party are worse than Daly – being ‘left-reformist’ and ‘opporuntistic’ in claiming to be revolutionary.

However, this actually demonstrates the second point Mark was making – namely that being ‘more’ left-wing is not always preferred. From my presepctive you are more left-wing than the Socialist Party but not of the preferred variety.

Clare Daly is more to the right – not just because she doesn’t use the word socialist more but for the reasons you yourself has outlined – her intent on aligning herself with bourgeois elements in the Dail – something the Socialist Party is not engaged in.

Now there may be some perverted logic in all the spartoid stuff about the Socialist Party’s abuse of the Transitional Programme that puts the politics of the Socialist Party in the same left-reformist place as Clare Daly – who am I to deprive you of those views.

WorldbyStorm - January 21, 2013

JRG. I certainly don’t want to fight revprogs fight for him, but Mark P’s statement didn’t make any sense – other than seeming to be be entirely self-serving (in so far as it offers him the chance to get a dig in at me and to try to present himself – albeit entirely unconvincingly – as the voice of sweet reason), and your contribution merely points it up.

And ironically you prove them point yourself by demonstrating that ‘being ‘more’ left-wing” is actually to be preferred in your points about Clare Daly in paragraph three where you suggest she is ‘intent on aligning herself with bourgeois elements in the Dáil’ etcetrea.

Of course then you go on to attack the ‘spartoid’ tradition. So in one comment you not merely undercut the supposed meaning of his rather disingenuous line but you manage to do so to both the left and right of the SP!

One couldn’t make it up.

revolutionaryprogramme - January 21, 2013

JRG – to your credit I guess you at least don’t seem to dispute that the SP method is to hide the elements of your programme that you consider too radical for the current consciousness of the average worker.

In terms of the Bolshevik political tradition I come from doing that is considered opportunism. You no doubt just consider it to be smart tactics and who am I to deprive you of that view.

dmfod - January 21, 2013

WbS I really don’t get the point you’re trying to make. I don’t think there’s any contradiction between saying that being further left is not always preferable and simultaneously criticising someone for being too far to either the right or left. Each party/individual is likely to aim to be at the optimum point on the left-right spectrum according to their politics (and will also probably disagree as to where the rubicons between revolutionary socialism/left reformism and left/right are).

On the substantive issue, are you saying CD has not moved to the right of the SP and that the ULA’s programme is not to the right of the SP – or am I picking you up wrong?

WorldbyStorm - January 21, 2013

Of course there’s no contradiction in saying that being further left or right is not always preferable while simultaneously criticising someone for being too far to either right or left, but that’s not what was said.

What was said originally was that Clare Daly by leaving the SP, even though she remained within the ULA, had moved rightwards and using terms that indicated this was a politically negative move (‘defection’, ‘less radical’ and so on).

Interestingly there was nothing in either Mark P or JRGs comment about CD moving ‘too far to either left or right’, unless implicitly they and you believe the ULA itself is too far to the right or that simply by leaving the SP she had moved to the right.

When I asked was there any evidence that she had moved to a ‘less radical’ position I was told I had unexamined assumptions, a risible contention in light of the language used in the original and follow up comments. There’s a contradiction in someone taking me to task for a belief I don’t hold when that individual clearly holds that belief themselves.

I don’t know if CD has moved to the right or left of the SP. How could I, how could anyone until she makes some more definitive statement? What she now says seems to be in lock step with what she said when an SP rep – though obviously not framed by the SP and its programme – and functionally who could tell the difference in terms of her voting record, campaigning activity, etc?

As regards the ULA being to the right of the SP, it may well be, or more accurately some within it may be (while others would be further left than the SP) , but not to the degree that the SP was unable to work within that framework. Moreover the ULA isn’t a finished project, the programme though explicitly anti-capitalist (and therefore implicitly calling for a revolutionary transformation) is under-developed, and it is still under construction, but as it stands at the moment, today, whatever about next week or whenever, the SP remains within it and therefore it must at the very least be sufficiently left wing and given that it has had that programme since it’s initiation sufficiently left wing for, what is it now, two years or more?

rmt - January 21, 2013

claredaly.ie and http://www.claredaly.ie/newsletter/ Any mention of socialism or anything related? Any politics other than anti-austerity populism and local issues? Anything resembling a programme or basic programmatic points for a way out of the crisis or a strategy for fighting austerity, other than ula press statements? No.

And if there’s no indication of any shift from mentioning a socialist transformation of society or anything along those lines since Clare left the Socialist Party, its probably because she’d stopped mentioning it for quite a while before she left. Why might that be? Clare’s no marxist or revolutionary socialist, which is fair enough as far it goes, but don’t go trying to pretend otherwise.

WorldbyStorm - January 21, 2013

Aye, on paper that sounds credible, but it ignores a number of contextual issues. Firstly the ULA is a work in progress. Given that CD is in the ULA and so is the SP even if the ULA is a minimum programme it was sufficient for the latter’s participation and logically it’s not unreasonable therefore for it to be sufficient for the former. And it actually does seem unreasonable to freight CD’s participation as being lesser if the SP finds it okey dokey (though for how much longer, how much longer?). Secondly taking her at her word if she wants the ULA to develop to be the vehicle that functions on the further left it makes sense for her not to make pre-emptive and over-arching statements prior to its full inception as a party etc. Thirdly, there’s the small fact that she may feel that a slightly diffuse approach makes sense in order to minimise confusion given that she just left the Socialist party.

And of course, finally, no one is ‘pretending’ anything, simply looking at the situation with a reasonably objective view.

2. Jim Monaghan - January 18, 2013

The only way to preserve left purity is to stay in a monastery. Be a DeLeon or worse.Even having a job involves a compromise with the system according to some.Being a trade union official was considered a sin by others.
Age itself is a nono.
The Dail is another arena of struggle.
And I found election campaigns taught many of our abstract marxist theoriticians (maybe there are anarchists ones) how to use language that ordinary people understand. Eamonn McCann and Bernadette McAliskey are amongst the best in this regard.

WorldbyStorm - January 18, 2013


3. Jimmy Scutclife - January 18, 2013

Clare Daly sold her soul for a blonde bombshell – Doyle’s piece is very good.

4. Jimmy Scutclife - January 18, 2013

McCann can use the language, achieved fuck all else though.

Jim Monaghan - January 19, 2013

I am not in the SWP but I would disagree. His work on Bloody Sunday and say Raytheon for a start. His energy on behalf of good causes and his willingness to use his talents to that end.

5. Ed - January 18, 2013

This article has an unfortunate tendency to empty terms of their usual meaning, as in the following examples:

“In other words a right mess for all those left activists committed to the parliamentary road to socialism.”

“a reformist wing within the ULA which aims to mould it into a social democratic electoral party.”

“for Ireland’s troubled parliamentary socialist movement the fallout is a lot more serious and worrying.”

No section of the ULA argues for a ‘parliamentary road to socialism’ in the tradition of Bernstein or the Fabians. Everyone involved in the project agrees that you can’t have meaningful political change without extra-parliamentary mass movements. The ULA in its entirety supports the campaign for non-payment of the household tax, which means they explicitly call for working-class people to defy the will of parliament and break the law; this would have been completely heretical for any of the ‘parliamentary socialist movements’ and ‘social-democratic electoral parties’ of the twentieth century. There’s no shortage of reasons people might have for criticising the ULA. But they have to be based on what its component parts actually stand for.

You can, if you like, reject all left strategies that involve running candidates for election, taking seats in parliament if elected etc. But lumping all such strategies under a single heading of ‘left electoralism’ or ‘parliamentary socialism’ is completely unhelpful. If you’re looking for historical analogies, rather than talking about the German Social Democrats or the Australian Labour Party, it would be more meaningful to talk about the Communist parties, which started out saying very explicitly that they were going to use parliament as a platform to overthrow capitalism by force. Some more recent examples would be the German Greens or Rifondazione in Italy. If you said to people in the ULA ‘how do you intend to avoid going down the same road as those parties?’, that would be a meaningful question. But accusing them of wanting to imitate Harold Wilson or Helmut Schmidt or Francois Mitterand is just pointless, it’ll get us nowhere. There are several different ways of approaching electoral politics from a left perspective; they can’t all be reduced to a single ‘parliamentary road to socialism’, any more than we can talk about a single ‘revolutionary road to socialism’ (I would never lump the WSM together with the Baader-Meinhof Group or the Red Brigades on the grounds that they were / are all revolutionaries; or lump them together with RSF and the 32 CSM on the grounds that they all have an abstentionist policy towards Leinster House).

I think focusing on the question of individual defection as exemplified by Clare Daly is a bit of a red herring anyway. Historically, individual defection hasn’t been a huge problem for the Left; sure, MPs have sometimes broken with their parties, but of all the difficulties left parties have had to deal with, that has been a fairly minor one. More important problems for left parties that get involved in electoral politics have been as follows:

1) If you have enough support to win seats in parliament, but not enough to overtake the main social-democratic / reformist party, you will come under a lot of pressure to form a coalition with that party; people will accuse you of ‘helping the right / letting them into power’ etc. if you don’t.

2) If you DO have enough support to become the main left-wing party, then you will come under pressure to dilute your programme in order to win the last bit of support needed to carry you over the line so you can form a government.

(This is leaving aside all the problems that would come into play if a left party actually did form a government with a radical programme)

It’s not hard to think of examples from the last couple of decades to illustrate both points. Rifondazione in Italy fell victim to the first; the Workers’ Party in Brazil fell victim to the second. It would be far more productive to ask people from the ULA how they intend to avoid going down either path.

WorldbyStorm - January 18, 2013

Very interesting and thoughtful response Ed. Another option is that of SYRIZA which has eschewed 1 and – perhaps thankfully – not had to face 2.

Joe - January 18, 2013

Excellent stuff, Ed.

6. Paul Byrne - January 18, 2013

I really hope that Kevin Doyle is a teenager as it would be quite a thing for him to be an adult and still write like one. The article is a piece of tabloid nonsense with anarchism 101 on the side. Hardly worth the link.

kfdoyle - January 18, 2013

Clare Daly is just an example. Important because she has such a high standing on the left – or at least that was how it looked to me. And of course it is true that one cannot draw a graph using one point. But there is huge dismay with has happened with her and from my involvement here in Cork – alongside members of the ULA – in the CAHWT, it is pointless to pretend otherwise. People are trying to understand where she is at and where she is going – among other things. There is her rhetoric as pointed out in the article but what are we to believe anymore from her?

Significant numbers of people on the left may well be sceptical about the parliamentary option but there is no doubt that others who are ready to jump into an election race at the first opportunity. (Take for example the latest talk that the CAHTW should run candidates in the forthcoming local elections – as if that will really do for us what we need).

Here in Cork in the CAHWT the efforts by some members of some parties to promote their positions within the Campaign from the outset (for the purposes of future electoral gain) were a reality. And it did damage. The CAHWT was not a ULA front – the reason I know this is because most of people who did the hard work in the Campaign in Cork were not in the ULA. But you wouldn’t know that from some of media coverage we got. Some people – to remain nameless ;-) – were always making sure to have their name and photo in the newspaper when the Campaign did anything. Sure I know that can be construed as ‘small stuff’ but it does damage.

The article on Clare Daly is as much to provoke a debate. Many of us – a lot perhaps – know that what we really need is a powerful movement of anger that is on the streets and in the unions. What else could really address the wholesale robbery that we are suffering at the hands of the very people who created this mess? Is that movement compatible with the sort of parliamentary presence the Irish left has today at its head. I don’t think so anyway.

7. El Marko - January 18, 2013

I think the key question that needs to be answered by those who defend engagement in the parliamentary process is how and when have the supposed advantages of this engagement benefited socialists. Yeah it all makes sense when you look at it on paper, but then so does the change the system from the inside argument. The problem is that in reality, that has never really been the case and the argument is, as far as I’m concerned, just another little bit of self-perpetuating ideology masquerading as pragmatism.

So here’s the challenge:
Give some examples where participation in electoral politics popularised workers self organisation, real socialist ideas and didn’t end in a drift to the right. I want direct links to electoral activity leading to this – not party A did this and they also did this.

Ed - January 19, 2013

The trouble with the ‘where did it not lead to a drift to the right / absorption into the establishment’ argument is that it can easily be turned on its head: where did non-participation in electoral politics not lead to marginality and failure? As things stand, neither option has worked out in practice: nobody has established a socialist society by taking part in parliamentary politics, or by building a purely non-electoral movement. Obviously this is the case, since every country in Europe and the wider world is run on capitalist lines. So the ‘where did it work’ argument can only take us so far: ultimately, nothing has worked so far, except in terms of partial gains and victories. All of us are working on the basis of educated guesses of what’s likely to work.

que - January 19, 2013

“Give some examples where participation in electoral politics popularised workers self organisation, real socialist ideas and didn’t end in a drift to the right”

Counter-question exclude the realm of electoral politics which is indeed only an aspect but a damn important aspect (if you cant persuade the electorate to draw x beside your name when they’ve already walked into the booth it says a lot doesnt it) can you provide an example where left wing parties have recently popularised workers self-organisation, real socialist ideas and didnt end up just drifting?

If there was tremendous success being achieved outside the realm of the Dail then you’d have a point but isnt the real concern that into year 5 of the collapse the only new initiative taken by the Irish left, excluding those parties plugging away as usual no matter what the results, is breaking down in such a fashion likely to ensure that the argument of whether they should be in the Dail will be solved for a few of them and keep a few more aspirants out on the street.

Is that real socialism? low profile, ignored by voters, but changing the system at a date far in the future?

Thats the real challenge, no? Pretend things are progressing nicely and discount as irrelevant fora which show how little backing, and influence the left has in Ireland; or accept that things arent going that great at all and figure out why.

As an example of success the left achieved well look to our neighbours in Britain -Anuerin Bevan nationalised 2600 hospitals. Yeah labour turned full steam to the right in the 90s but give them a break after 40 years thats not a reflection of the creation of the NHS. Very many other examples of concrete successes which at the end of the day beat any number of street demos etc.

8. richotto - January 18, 2013

I’m no feminist myself but I’m disgusted by parts of the article and the general agreement of the contributors using Clare Dalys alleged personal life for the purposes of a political hatchet job. The tone of some of the comments in this article and SP scources in general since her resignation would make even a tabloid editor blush. To her credit she has not replied in kind with public mudslinging. She would after 25 years have many embarrassing things to say about the internal workings of the SP but has chosen not to go down that road despite all the provocation.
I would regard the many hostile comments against CD by former collegues to be in the international tradition of democratic centralist parties to verbally abuse with false allegations members who have fallen out with the leadership. Another good example of this would be the treatment given to John Throne the founder of Militant Tendency since he was purged in the 90s.
On the comments regarding revolutionary versus parlimentary tactics I don’t see any sense of accountability of the party to the people. The only thing that matters it seems is how better to get your way, by hook or by crook. In 1918 Russia the Bolsheviks recieved only 25% of the vote in the parlimentary elections despite having control over the state at that time. The SR party effectively loyal to Kerensky were the victors. Except they did’nt have the guns and the Bolsheviks made a travesty of a democratic mandate via the Soviets to justify their continued rule. I feel that many on the Irish far left harbour similar dreams of taking over the state undemocratically with the help of massive destabilization. Its a great pity as it seems from the comments above that there is pretty much unanimity in the ULA on this kind of idealogy. I belive that most of those 2.5% who voted for ULA candidates in the last election were not on that waveleanth.

WorldbyStorm - January 19, 2013

Agree with much if this particularly re personal life etc. But your last paragraph is excellent. Where indeed are the working class in much of this? They seem almost to be bit players against which frankly utopian schemes and processes are played out.

And given the peripheral position of the further left a bit of humility and a lot less certainty that x is right/wrong or likewise y wouldn’t go amiss either.

que - January 19, 2013

Voters not on that wavelength? I’ve seen arguments responding to that argument implying a person is questioning the intelligence of voters. I am sure we wont see that again. Isnt it an inevitable conclusion though from the tactics being pursued, and stuck with, that the only route to power must be through destabilisation as the parties we are considering cant get enough voters to back them yet likewise have never as you point out managed to build on success from the streets.

As distasteful as the prospect of left wing parties seeming to support less than ideal routes to power do you genuinely see any of those parties ever getting near power.

Look at the ULA it broke over how 2.5% of the vote should be split, or supposedly over Clare Daly.

If its constituents couldnt figure out how to handle the Daly story then the danger they represent to democracy is small indeed.

As commented where are the workers in all this. There are some who would have you believe they stand with the self-appointed voice of the workers.

Reflecting on how truly that reflects the real world is likely a good first step on achieving the suggested humility.

Or to hell with that and lets build the mass party of the workers and onwards.

Kevin Higgins - January 20, 2013

“I would regard the many hostile comments against CD by former collegues to be in the international tradition of democratic centralist parties to verbally abuse with false allegations members who have fallen out with the leadership. Another good example of this would be the treatment given to John Throne the founder of Militant Tendency since he was purged in the 90s” I agree entirely. If they had the power, they’d have us all lined up against the wall and shot (or some such). That is the tone of all these attacks from the likes of Jolly Red Giant [not really my blog but since I figure it's roughly 3am in Ireland that I'd take the name down for now, as long as there's no sock puppeting I see no harm in screen names. WBS can revise as he pleases, but when in doubt lets error on the side of discretion and respect individual's privacy yourcousin].

CMK - January 20, 2013

WbS – isn’t revealing the names of those who post here a permanent banning offence? Or will Kevin be given a pass? If he’s given a pass then I don’t think CLR will last much longer as a credible place to comment.

Mark P - January 20, 2013


Kevin Higgins - January 20, 2013

I don’t really see how Jesus is involved. Wasn’t aware of that rule. It is a fact though that the SP online commentors are all pseudonymous which enables them to attack the records of others while remaining immune to such scrutiny themselves. Their dear leader, Kevin McLoughlin, who no doubt sends them out to do this work – it is certainly not done without approval, we can be sure of that, doesn’t have the guts to appear at SP press conferences in person.

WorldbyStorm - January 20, 2013

Kevin, this is a basic rule of internet communications, that one doesn’t reveal the identity of others if they choose to use a username – and I’m baffled that someone wouldn’t at this stage be well aware of it.

Whatever you may think about the SP or its members or any other group it’s not for you to take it upon yourself to break that rule. The SP will stand or fall on its record, not that of individuals.

And given that you weren’t personally mentioned in any of this – which would have put a different spin on it – I can’t understand why you’d think such an approach was appopriate.

I don’t understand how knowing who I or Mark P or yourcousin to pick names at random – are offline strengthens or weakens an argument. It’s essentially an irrelevancy.

But beyond that it is simple courtesy not to reveal information about others that they do not wish to be revealed – not just even, but particularly, when someone takes a position one doesn’t agree with.

In any event on this site that is an offence that is sanctioned.

That in mind all comments from you are now in moderation and will not be posted publicly. That may be reviewed at a later point but for the moment that’s the situation.

yourcousin, many thanks for dealing with this – I only read about it five minutes ago.

9. doctorfive - January 19, 2013

A lot of young people who didn’t pay much interest in politics this time last year are now tuned in & active on abortion issue. People who rarely watched the news are out marching. Difficult to see how some who hang on wont be warming to Clare Daly’s politics seeing how she has been central to the campaign.

For the rest, you have people taking her seriously. A big jump for some and if she is perceived right on this issue they will be more inclined to listen in future. Half the battle for left politics in this country and wouldn’t be possible if she wasn’t in the Dáil.

+1 with richotto above and I really don’t think you need to identify as feminist to wince at someone’s personal life being crowbarred into any & every criticism to you have.

WorldbyStorm - January 19, 2013

Excellent points, all. There’s a real problem in these discussions of an unwillingness or inability to differentiate between personal and political.

Re CDs profile, immeasurably better since her and others work on abortion issue achieved even greater relevancy.

sonofstan - January 19, 2013

young people who didn’t pay much interest in politics this time last year are now tuned in & active on abortion issue.

+1 on this.

Just back from the planning meeting of the campaign formerly without a name that it now the Abortion Rights Campaign and Clare Daly in her speech kept pointedly drawing attention to her great age in comparison with most of the people there – and she’s a few years younger than me.

Maybe not a whole generation radicalised, but some of the brightest and best certainly.

Joe - January 19, 2013

But how radicalised? Active and campaigning on the abortion rights issue, yes. But is it not the case that people from the right, left and centre may support abortion rights? So what I’m getting at is – how many of these radicalised young people would be left leaning in terms of redistribution of wealth and so forth?

CMK - January 19, 2013

Good points, Joe. If we’ve learnt anything from the last 25 years of Irish political history it’s that a strong ‘liberal’ position on social questions, like abortion, can go hand in hand with economic views that would shame an 1830′s Lancashire mill owner. It’s good that abortion seems to be a touchstone for some of the younger people who it seems, sadly, are prepared to let questions of political economy, wealth distribution, workers rights drift by. Having said that there is no real why campaigning for better abortion rights should place you on the Left. Women of all political beliefs, and none, are affected by this issue so it might be counter productive to see it exclusively as a ‘Left’ issue?

Finbarr - January 19, 2013

Indeed, the radicalisation of young people on the issue of abortion rights should be seen in the context of the continued ”modernisation” of Irish society, the same ”modernisation” that delivered us the Celtic Tiger. Of course ”modernisation” is just a euphemism for neoliberalism and the ‘radicalisation’ of these young people is just evidence of the cementing of the neoliberal hegemony.

I would venture that what excerises these ‘brightest and best’ about abortion is not so much feminist, socialist or left arguments about choice but embarassment at what the rest of the world might think of dear old Ireland in the sftermath of the Savita case and a subconscious apolitical reaction against the Catholic Church.

I would further venture that the radicalisation of these ‘brightest and best’ (we are well and truly fucked if that description is true) not as raising of left wing consciousness but as a walk down the dead end of neoliberal identity politics.

doctorfive - January 19, 2013

impossible to know at this stage but an early distaste for Fine Gael is no harm

CL - January 19, 2013

An embryo has no rights. Rights do not pertain to a potential, only to an actual being. A child cannot acquire any rights until it is born. The living take precedence over the not-yet-living (or the unborn).

Abortion is a moral right—which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved; morally, nothing other than her wish in the matter is to be considered. Who can conceivably have the right to dictate to her what disposition she is to make of the functions of her own body?-Ayn Rand.

sonofstan - January 19, 2013

Fair points, Joe and CMK, but I think you’d both be surprised. Steeling yourself in advance to be disappointed by the young is not, as they would say, ‘a good look’.

CMK - January 19, 2013

Stan, I hope, and I mean I ‘really’ hope, you’re right. I’m not in day to day contact with the 18-25 year generation but the bits where I am don’t fill me with hope. The 4-10 generation, who I’m better acquainted with, while unaware of what’s ahead of them (which is how it should be) may well turn out to be real fighters; I think they’ll have to be, given that our generation 30-50′s are allowing abominations in terms of working conditions and terms of employment to be introduced, once we’re not personally affected. Indeed, one of the truly depressing dimensions to the recent attacks on graduate nurse salaries and new teachers salaries has been the utter indifference of well established nurses and teachers who, if they had any sense would have shut up shop until the whole idea of much lower salary scales were dropped. So, you have nurses and teachers with kids in primary who, if they in turn become nurses or teachers 20 year hence, will be employed on dramatically inferior terms and conditions, and yet mummy and daddy today are not prepared to do anything about it. Anyone who has read anything about the post war German Federal Republic will know that those who came of age in the 1960s and 1970s often had nothing but contempt for their parents who grew up under the Nazis. I fear that children growing up today will, when the hit the workforce, have nothing but contempt for our generation who are waving though with a smile and a raised pint, attack after attack on what will be their future terms and conditions.

sonofstan - January 19, 2013

I’m not teaching at the minute but for the past few years I have been in day- to- day contact with students, and while, clearly you come across a lot of naivete and misplaced arrogance and just ignorance, I don’t doubt most of us had much the same qualities at that age. If young people had all our wisdom and experience of the world, then we truly would be fucked, since – if Finbarr’s comment is anything to go by – all it’s taught us is gnostic despair.

Re: the generational treason – I’ve had conversations recently with teachers and HSE staff my age that belies your description: they are deeply aware and angry about the situation facing new entrants to their professions but feel that there is no appetite among their unions to do anything.

CMK - January 19, 2013

Stan, every teacher and every nurse is no doubt livid about what’s happening. But, but, but, but they’re not prepared to do anything about it. The union leadership could care less they’ll harvest the new recruits and skin them for 40 years of subs. Everyone is angry but nobody is prepared to step outside their comfort zone and jeopardise this or that treasured luxury and, in so doing, they’re degrading the futures of their children’s. The scope for anguish without action is narrowing. My own view, based on union work, is that generation, at least in the public sector, are just not prepared to do anything. They’ve thrown the newcomers to the wolves with scarcely a backward glance little realising that said newcomers will be the ones who’ll have to apply their muscle if the state attacks current workers pensions in the future, which they will. Neo-liberals are clever fuckers, far cleverer than many on the Left, they know how to f**k with peoples’ minds and having successfully entrenched the divide between workers in the public and private sector, they have now progressed onto entrenching a similar divide between the generations in all workplaces. The unions could not care less. The current comfortable generations are a good steady source of income and there is no way that the unions are going to threaten that by kicking up a stink about the thrashing of conditions for new entrants.

I agree with you that every generation, at a certain point, believes they have all the answers and that the oldies are just an impediment. But, allow me to lapse into vulgar Marxism, on the ‘objective conditions’, anyone under 22 now is really heading into a s**tstorm in terms of employment conditions and pay. And that includes many of the formerly ‘steady’ professions such as teaching, academia, nursing, civil service etc, which are gradually, and with the full conscious complicity of the unions, being casualised and degraded. When you see Gardaí being taken on for 2 year contracts you’ll know we’ve hit rock bottom.

CL - January 19, 2013

CMK-”Neo-liberals are clever fuckers, far cleverer than many on the Left, they know how to f**k with peoples’ minds and having successfully entrenched the divide between workers in the public and private sector, they have now progressed onto entrenching a similar divide between the generations in all workplaces.”-An excellent description of what’s happening in the U.S. also.

sonofstan - January 19, 2013

CMK, there’s a bit of a contradiction in that you’re saying on the one hand that ‘our’ generation has sold the pass and let down future generations, whilst, on the other suggesting that we might, nevertheless, have something to teach them.

Until the left in this country acknowledges its utter failure to achieve anything substantial in the past, and in very much more promising conditions, we don’t really have much authority to lecture those dealing with the wreckage.

Finbarr - January 19, 2013

I would like to state for the record that I am one of these ‘young people’ that you are all talking about. My comments are not from ‘gnostic despair’ or anything like it.

I wouldn’t despair about all ‘young people’. However, I would be very wary of the type of young people who are most excercised by this issue. Rather than seeing them as a cause for hope I would see them, perhaps, as the new gombeens in a lot of ways.

When the same young people are as excercised by the expropriation of wealth that is the bank bailout and demanding a redistribution of weath rather than worrying about whether the americans or whoever think ‘we’ are a laughing stock then I will be willing to agree that they are the ‘brightest and best’ and a cause for hope.

I won’t be holding my breath though.

CMK - January 19, 2013

Stan, I’ve no doubt there are plenty of contradictions and non-sequiters in what I’ve written. I’m writing from emotion and not necessarily cold rationality. I agree with you that we don’t have much authority to lecture future generations. But, I would argue, ‘our’ generation has been conditioned by expectations and conditions which will not be part of experience of those coming after us. However, as is always the case, one person’s pessimistic assessment is likely to overlook the positives that are growing beneath the radar screen, as it were. Certainly, younger people today have access to
far greater array of information than those of us who grew up when ‘computers’ were the size of kitchens. The dialectic of the facebook generation may well throw up surprises. Certainly, there have to be students in universities who see the lionisation of ‘entrepreneurs’ as the bullshit it is. Having said all that, I’ve no doubt my kids will have to struggle in ways that I can’t conceive. And that’s not a pleasant prospect.

ejh - January 20, 2013

Neo-liberals are clever fuckers, far cleverer than many on the Left

I don’t think this nis true, but they do have:

(a) power ; and
(b) confidence in their ideas.

We have neither: the past thirty years have robbed us of both.

10. sonofstan - January 19, 2013

One factor that I don’t think has been mentioned here that has an influence on the status and behaviour of left public representatives is that you’re up against three (now four) national party machines that can, given a fair wind, get any old mediocrity elected, whereas, in order to get elected as a left TD, you need to be a pretty exceptional character.

None of the 5 TDs elected under the ULA banner were elected because voters in their constituencies self- identified as ‘ULA’ voters – many probably didn’t even know their wo/man was a member of such a thing – or even as SP/ PbP/ WUAG voters: they voted for Joe, or Clare, or Joan, or that nice Richard, or Seamus. So, whereas many – most? – of the new intake of FG/ LAB TDs and some of the Shinners owe their seats to their parties, none of the left TDs do – they all really are bigger than their parties.

It’s notable that the non-Labour left in this country has always been epitomised, in the Oireachtas anyway, by the the lonely outsider, the socialist saint who wins effusive tributes ‘even from his bitterest opponents’ upon his demise, is greatly loved by all, and furthers the cause of socialism not one inch – Noel Browne, Tony Gregory, Jim Kemmy…….. and, unfortunately, with all of those 5 TDs elected as ULA reps now ploughing different furrows, it’s a tradition that looks set to continue.

Which suggests that the left won’t have arrived as an electoral force until it can get really dull candidates elected….:)

11. El Marko - January 19, 2013

“A lot of young people who didn’t pay much interest in politics this time last year are now tuned in & active on abortion issue. People who rarely watched the news are out marching. Difficult to see how some who hang on wont be warming to Clare Daly’s politics seeing how she has been central to the campaign.”

This is absolute nonsense and actually part of the problem. Clare played no part in the campaign. Clare spoke on podiums at demonstrations organised by grass roots activists. Consciousness was changed by the events around the Savita tragedy. The public centrality of public figures who have played little or no role in building a campaign makes it look to the outsider like it was parliamentary politics that brought this into focus and gives the impression you don’t need to organise.

doctorfive - January 19, 2013

Rough recap of the most recent round of developments.

Starting in the Dáil funnily enough

Feb 2012 – Daly moves Medical Treatment Bill coinciding with xcase anniversary. Voted down in April but not before Reilly announces “this will not be the seventh government to neglect and ignore this issue”

This same private members motion and subsequent comments from Minister spook youth defence leading to massive & ultimately backfiring billboard campaign in the Summer.

September – Daly among contributors to ‘X was anonymous’ short film and arguably speech of the day at largest pro-choice march in a decade.

November – Savita Halappanaver story breaks. Daly on right side of history when most politicians are running a mile. Ceann Comhairle almost embarrassed telling her speaking time was up. Speech outside widely circulated.

Amendment Bill put forward – Defeated. Daly skins Derek Keating alive in the Dáil chamber. If there was a TD speaking for a sickened people and Dáil moment capturing the clash of ideas. That was it.

Unashamed & confident prochoice views on the Dáil record.

Calls for repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

There are of course hundreds of others involved in different ways at different levels but the story of all this wont be complete without the above.

You say it leaves an impression you don’t need to organise. I think we’ve rarely seen such varying degree of action precisely because people are very aware of the futility & glacial grind of parliamentary politics. I’ve highlighted it here twice if not three times in the last two weeks.

Much of this action has been done with a level creativity that should be closely examined by other campaigns and we’ll see more of it tomorrow in Merrion Square.

Clare Daly is quoted saying she won’t be in attendance as she’s busy, organising.


Any thoughts on my second point?

Very recent member of the SP holding more public credibility then the Archbishop is progress no?

WorldbyStorm - January 19, 2013

That’s a great overview, and I think it really is a case of credit where credit is due to CD. Arguably, gven how the CAHWT has gone so quiet the work she and others did across two years has dovetailed with broader events. There’s a lot of lessons in there.

El Marko - January 19, 2013

“September – Daly among contributors to ‘X was anonymous’ short film and arguably speech of the day at largest pro-choice march in a decade.” a march which she took no part in organising, whose origins go back to the first meeting of the Irish choice network in July and the subsequent meeting which brought most pro-choice activists from various groups together, I was at both meetings, Clare was at neither (Not claiming to have played a big part in organising anything as I didn’t but I know a lot of the people who did) and Clare definitely didn’t call the meeting you posted the link to. I’m not saying she hasn’t done anything positive either, but her role here is not as someone who is building a movement to change society, but as someone who is interested in representation by attempting incremental change in a way that in any other country you would find liberal politicians taking up.

doctorfive - January 19, 2013

hmmm, Do you think the Medical Treatment Bill was pulled, opportunistically, out of the air when she realised the x anniversary was coming up that weekend?

No link between her actions in the Dáil in April> Youth Defence billboards in May > politicisation of hundreds if not thousands & the first meeting of the Irish choice network in July. It’s all one line and without the first half of the year the prochoice movement might not of had this foundation when the proverbial hit the fan in November.

None of this is boosterism for Clare Daly. I don’t believe she needs it but you’re either being deliberately obtuse or codding yourself to play down her role in a year opposing the reactionary right and crucially, getting a result at the end of it.

It’s a positive block to build on. People who were in smug agreement with Shortall’s “rag bag” remark in 2011 are now taking interest in what she and likely others on the left do next in 2013.

12. El Marko - January 19, 2013

Ed, just noticed your comment. Many mass movements have come from the extra-parliamentary left, the most famous of course being the CNT and arguably the closest we’ve had to a real socialist revolution. I’ve argued (in an article in the last lookleft and elsewhere) that in most cases where the left had parliamentary success it was preceded by an extra-parliamentary mass movement, usually the turn to parliamentary politics precedes the turn to the right. Examples in Ireland being the Labour Party who’s electoral politics in the early twenties spelled the death knell for syndicalism and the Workers Party, and we all know what happened there. Almost every country has such examples, bigger, better examples. I’d also argue that whatever limited success the parliamentary left had in a time when it was actually possible to win reforms from capitalism is not relevant today.

Ger Redmond - January 19, 2013

your earlier comment “el marko”:

“Clare played no part in the campaign. Clare spoke on podiums at demonstrations organised by grass roots activists.”


I find it amazing that you equate this campaign purely in terms of savita halappanavar’s tragic death.

Is this the future of anarchist campaigning in Ireland? SWP-style bandwagon postures?

El Marko - January 19, 2013

Comment makes no sense and makes no reference to what I actually wrote outside of a selective quote.

Ed - January 19, 2013

But they all failed in the long run to achieve their ultimate goal, i.e to create a socialist society. So the argument that you can get rid of capitalism without dipping your toe in parliamentary politics to some extent is, at best, unproven. Just as the argument that you can engage in parliamentary politics without being absorbed by the system and losing sight of your original goals is unproven.

Of course you can have mass movements without having seats in parliament, that’s been clear for a long time. The question is whether those movements can overthrow capitalism in countries where bourgeois democracy is very well rooted. The problem as I see it of not engaging in electoral politics is this: you can build up a very impressive mass movement, but when it comes to the crunch and the question of who exercises power is being decided, the initiative will pass to the parliamentary left parties, however little they had to do creating that movement in the first place.

In a nutshell that was what happened in France in 1968: the general strike and the factory occupations created an opportunity for de Gaulle’s government to be overthrown, but the revolutionary groups were too small to take advantage of that; it was the parliamentary left parties, the Communists and the social democrats, who had the opportunity and they flunked it. And in Italy a few years later, you had several years of really intense class struggle coming out of 1968, everything that you could hope for in terms of workers’ self-activity, countless strikes and community protests; most of it was organised by revolutionary groups that paid little attention to parliamentary politics, but at the end of it all it was the Communist Party who reaped the political benefits and led the whole movement into a dead-end. In a country where parliamentary democracy has been established for a long time, it has a very strong gravitational pull and the danger for radicals and revolutionaries is that if they don’t engage with it at all, others will and they will be the ones who determine the final outcome.

critical media review - January 19, 2013

I hear the Sp have been busy managing the grassroots for a split with the ULA over the last couple of weeks. Branch meetings have been held up and done the country on the issue.

El Marko - January 19, 2013

Ed I think you kind of answered yourself there. In France and Italy in 1968 the already existing mass movements were parliamentary. The extra-parliamentary left was small and predominantly student based. The communist parties had mass worker membership, a recent history of fighting fascism, in Italy in particular they had a vast network of social centres and educational facilities – it was their existing strength and the weakness of the anarchists and left communists that was the decisive factor there.

Contrast with Spain in 1936. You had a pre-existing mass extra-parliamentary movement with networks of social centres, their own schools and scientific institutions and when a revolutionary situation arose, the state and parliamentarism vanished in the parts of the country where there strength was greatest. Two of the factors that led to the defeat of the revolution – the ability of the Communist Party to bring in arms and funds via the Soviet Union and the mistake of joining the popular front. The CNT themselves by taking this turn gave a kiss of life to the state which had but in name disappeared.

At the moment we have neither a mass movement of the class nor do we have a strong parliamentary left with deep roots in the class. So the question is, which one will we build?

Dr.Nightdub - January 19, 2013

Wasn’t the whole point of the ULA that the question you pose shouldn’t be an either/or?

WorldbyStorm - January 19, 2013

Precisely my thought as well Dr.Nightdub.

A number of things strike me El Marko.

First that Clare Daly doesn’t really seem illustrative of the rightward tendencies you reference. Indeed her movement, if any, on the political spectrum has been from the SP to the broader ULA, hardly a step change. One could make a convincing argument that she’s broken from a specifically Marxist-Leninist approach ie rigid democratic centralist party, to a more generally and somewhat more diffuse Marxist approach.

Secondly, that as Dr.Nightdub suggests, it’s not either/or parliamentary as against extra-parliamentary. it has to be both and for a basic reason. The further left is small and the portion with an enthusiasm for exclusively extra-parliamentary approaches is much smaller still. There’s little point, in my view, trying to add extra mountains to climb above and beyond trying to bring people across to the left or building that left in a society that’s overwhelmingly set in a different orientation by trying to convince others of the correctness of your approach when everything suggests they simply don’t agree with that degree of exclusivity. Better by far to be concentrating on your chosen area of work rather than trying to convert the – at this stage – unconvertible. And by the way I’d say precisely the same to those who take more parliamentary approaches that they shouldn’t step on your toes either.

WorldbyStorm - January 19, 2013

CMR, word of that has reached me too. Interesting to see if anything happens over the next few days.

Ed - January 19, 2013

I don’t think I answered myself at all really Mark. In the case of Italy, I wasn’t just talking about what happened in 1968, I was talking about the whole period that followed up to the end of the 1980s. It would have been impossible for the French far left to create a CNT-sized movement in a few weeks of 1968, but the Italian far left had more than a decade; none of the revolutionary groups set much store by electoral politics, they all put their energy into extra-parliamentary struggles. They stopped being student groups, they all had a presence in the factories and in community activism. But after ten years of tireless work, they still had to watch as the initiative passed to the Italian CP.

To be sure, the fact that things happened a certain way in the past doesn’t mean history is bound to repeat itself. But I gave France and Italy as examples because I think they’re much, much closer to the conditions we’re faced with in Europe today than Spain in the 1930s: they were countries with bourgeois-democratic systems that had been in place for at least a couple of decades, with advanced industrial economies, mass consumerism etc. The Spanish republic had only existed for a few years at the time of Franco’s coup, it was never a stable form of government, and most of the population lived in the countryside and worked in agriculture. There’s just no basis in most of Europe today for the kind of rural class struggles which were a big part of Spanish anarchism, there simply aren’t enough people working in agriculture, and the ones who do have conditions of life that bear little resemblance to Andalusia in the 30s.

Now there are still plausible arguments that you can make for an abstentionist policy towards parliament. But trying to repeat the experience of the CNT in modern conditions isn’t likely to get us much further than trying to repeat the experience of the Bolsheviks has for the Leninist far left.

Ed - January 19, 2013

That should have been ‘end of the 1970s’ in the first para.

Jim Monaghan - January 19, 2013

The anarchists were big in Barcelona, so not just rural. In fact the CNT had the capability of leading a revolution. Funnily while not contesting elections they took part in the Popular Front government. And did not notice the revolution being strangled until it was too late.
Another point the FAI were as manipulative as any Leninist party

Michael Carley - January 19, 2013

I don’t think it’s any surprise that the Italian far-left groups failed to make much progress in the long 68. Many of them quickly moved into armed struggle, of a particularly self-indulgent and sectarian kind, and had little to do with any real popular struggles (the Maoists were one of the exceptions to this trend). Many of them also disappeared into lifestyle politics of no real interest to working class life, or with any roots in trade unions or other groups, for example the indiani urbani. The reason the PCI was able to hold its position was that it had solid links to the unions, and it was able to hold the line against spoilt brats with guns on one side, and the likes of Andreotti, the strategy of tension, and the Fascist parties on the other. Its thanks for this was to find its shop stewards murdered by the Red Brigades. Magri is very good on the period in The Tailor of Ulm.

There was a similar trend amongst neo-Fascists, except that, in some cases, they moved away from organized Fascism (MSI, etc.) into violence, because they believed the working class, and Fascist `ideals’, were being sold out by a corrupt leadership. At one point, Rome had a group calling itself Nazi-Maoist.

WorldbyStorm - January 19, 2013

I’d agree with Ed that there just aren’t the conditions in the contemporary period for a CNT style approach – however much one might like it, and I think there’s a lot in that tradition to admire and learn from. Spain in the 1930s is just too radically different to Europe now for the same approaches to operate in the same way.

That’s very true Michael what you say re the PCI surviving, and indeed thriving for a time.

ejh - January 19, 2013

I don’t think it’s any surprise that the Italian far-left groups failed to make much progress in the long 68

When I was a young history student I was ticked off for referring to historical events as not surprising.

Michael Carley - January 19, 2013

@ejh If you prefer a different phrasing: to those who were paying attention when it started, the outcome of the long 68 would not have been a surprise.

Ed - January 19, 2013

I must read The Tailor of Ulm. I wonder was Magri over-egging that side of the argument a bit because of his PCI background.

Paul Ginsborg’s book ‘A History of Contemporary Italy’ has a brilliant chapter about that period (‘the era of collective action’ he calls it), and while he certainly draws attention to the negative traits you mention (dogmatism, gun-worship etc.), he does make a strong case that many far-left activists did try very hard to root themselves in the working class, and had some success in doing so (the factory councils in the northern industrial cities had a strong far-left presence, even into the 1980s, it wasn’t just the PCI).

He also talks about a retreat into private life by many activists, but dates it to later on, when the high tide had passed and the movements were already in retreat.

Incidentally one fairly superficial impression I’ve picked up about the urban guerrillas in Italy is that many of them tended to be working-class and some even had a background as shopfloor militants, whereas the RAF in West Germany was a purely middle-class student phenomenon. That doesn’t make them any less daft, of course.

Michael Carley - January 20, 2013

@Ed The general trend in the armed groups in Italy was that they came out of the `servizio d’ordine’ (roughly the group who stewarded marches) in the extra-parliamentary groups. These groups were obviously liable to be attacked by Fascists so their stewards began to arm themselves (apparently the Hazet 36 spanner was the favoured weapon). Over time, the servizi d’ordine became a law unto themselves, and eventually saw violence as an end, or a tactic, in its own right. The political content descended into picking `legitimate targets’, who included economists, and PCI shop stewards.

The political groups proper tended not to survive their armed wings running off with the spanners, but there were a few which managed to stay out of that dead end, and did build links with strikes and factory occupations, and also had some electoral success, such as Democrazia Proletaria (their leader was the first MEP to give a speech in Latin in the European Parliament).

The social background of the radical left was largely student, with the workers being more involved in the PCI through the trade unions, although I have the impression there was a certain trend of recent immigrants from the South getting involved. That didn’t happen much in the South, especially Sicily, for obvious reasons.

D_D - January 20, 2013

El Marko I think you kind of answered yourself there: “The CNT themselves by taking this turn gave a kiss of life to the state which had but in name disappeared.”

Anarchism as an ideology is in itself no more an inoculation against opportunism, or misguided coalitionism even, than other forms of revolutionary or radical socialism.

richotto - January 19, 2013

I’d expressed an opinion earlier that the extra parlimentary revolutionary approach has a critical weakness of revealing over time a refusal to make itself accountable to the public in terms which the public would consider acceptable, ie credible elections and not so called workers councils subject to manipulation by a small organized cohort.
The uprising in 1968 was a good example. A certain sizeable proportion was converted to revolutionary politics. It then called itself a mass movement and even though it was never remotely close to being a majority took the distrubances as a mandate to overthrow the govt. History show that the agitators massively overplayed their hand and their limited popularity went to their heads. When De Gaulle restored his power and elections took place the next year there was an 80% plus record right wing majority. The right wing side were credited by the people with being the party of democratic values. The parlimentary left took ten years to restore the position they had built up before 1968.

ejh - January 19, 2013

When De Gaulle restored his power and elections took place the next year there was an 80% plus record right wing majority.

You sure about that?

richotto - January 19, 2013

Correction. The elections took place in fact in 1968 only a month after the rising was put down. In terms of seats it was 396 for the right and 91 for the left. The first round popular vote was 58/42. The second round was where the real hit was for left wing candidates where the moderate and more radical left wing voters were badly split and could’nt support the surviving left candidate as previously and since.

Ed - January 19, 2013

It was 1958 when de Gaulle got an 80% plus majority.

I’d have a very different view of 1968, which is basically the one argued at the time by socialists like Lucio Magri and Daniel Singer (Singer’s book on May 1968 is essential reading for anyone on the Left IMHO).

Their argument was as follows: since the far-left groups were too small to lead the movement, the initiative quickly passed to the Communists and the social democrats. They could have demanded that de Gaulle resign and hand over power to a transitional government that would immediately hold fresh elections under a new electoral law. The strike should have continued until he gave in.

In that case, the left parties would have entered the elections from a position of strength, having won the strike and seen off de Gaulle; the Right would have been in disarray, and they would almost certainly have romped home. In terms of democratic legitimacy, it would have simply been a case of imitating de Gaulle himself: in 1958, he came to power in Paris without any electoral mandate after the army and the settlers in Algeria staged a coup; he held power for several months and re-designed the whole political system to suit himself before holding a presidential election (which he won handily).

Instead, the Communists and Socialists went into the elections having called off the strike with de Gaulle still in power; they were the ones in disarray, and the Right won handily.

It’s also just not true to say that it took the parliamentary left “ten years to restore the position they had built up before 1968″. In the 1969 election, the combined left vote was higher in the first round than it had been in 1965; it was divided between five candidates, so none of them made it through to the second round. In 1974, the two main left parties were united behind Francois Mitterand; he won the first round and lost the second round by barely 1%. So six years after 1968, the parliamentary left was in a much stronger position than it had been before the May events.






13. richotto - January 19, 2013

I should have said the uprising in France 1968.

richotto - January 20, 2013

In reply to Ed above (there is no reply function below his contribution) you seem to move the goalposts when it suits you. De Gaulle did have an 80% thumping parlimentary majority which represented the legitimate views of the French only a month after the 1968 distrubances were supressed. I looked at the results of the 1969 Presidential elections you mentioned. The left only took about 32% in the first round compared to 44% for the right. Granted there was a centre party which got 23% containing what became the Socialist party but it was still a coalition from left to centre right. Yes, in 1974 Mitterand came very close but that was firstly due to the element of beauty contest of Presidential as opposed to parlimentary elections and secondly on the hope from a segment of the electorate that the centre left and not the far left were in the driving seat this time. It took another seven years for the centre left to complete the takeover from the Communists and become a “party of government”.
What I would take from your above ideal senario would be that the far left would somehow through creation of chaos take over the state and contrive to win an election by fair means or foul. I believe that a small minority of mainly students with just a few radical workers put the general left in a position which in retrospect they wanted to have it both ways when they should never have entertained questioning the legitimacy of the state as it was supported at that time by the vast majority of French. Had the orthodox left got even closer to the revolting radical left the damage done would have been far worse. This is what happened in Portugal in the 70s which ushered in a period of more or less non stop right wing domination.

ejh - January 20, 2013

It took another seven years for the centre left to complete the takeover from the Communists and become a “party of government”.

With Communist ministers, as I recall, so it’s not entirely obvious that the trick was to distance themselves from the reds

This is what happened in Portugal in the 70s which ushered in a period of more or less non stop right wing domination

Well, it actually terminated a period of rightwing dictatorship. What you specifically mean by this “the orthodox left got even closer to the revolting radical left” I have no idea, other than to note the objectionable language.

richotto - January 20, 2013

On your first point the radical left did’nt overthrow the rightwing dictatorship in 1974. That came from a centrist movement of officers around General Spinola. What the far left did try and do in the 1974-76 period through a combination of left officers and allied workers actions was to create a left wing dictatorship and when this failed the whole left and workers movement have had a heavy price to pay ever since. Check out the history, and election results.
When I said revolting radical left in 1968 that was a factual discription of a party to the events that year in France. Do you really think I’m finding them revolting in the other sense? I don’t understand what you find objectionable?

ejh - January 20, 2013

Do you really think I’m finding them revolting in the other sense?

Yes i did, as you phrased it in a way that is unusual in spoken or written English. But glad to clear that up.

As far as checking out the election results is concerned, I took the trouble of looking them up before posting and I am not at all sure they back up your point.

richotto - January 20, 2013

Just on your point about Mitterand including Communist ministers in his first govt which I overlooked earlier. There was no question of there being a left alliance, throughout the 70s. Alliances of the left and ring are a neccessary element of the French electoral system. The issue was who would be in charge and by what extent. The Socialists had a parlimentary majority in 1981 on their and could afford to give the Communists a couple of ministries. When the Communists left the govt a couple of years later it was given little significance.

richotto - January 20, 2013

Should read “alliances of the left and right”, Sorry!

richotto - January 20, 2013

In what way not? Could you specify? The Communists and allied parties never got up to 20% in the 1974-76 period but thanks to the army they drove the political agenda mainly to the detriment of the centre left Socialists who won the two elections in this period. When they overeached themselves in an all out coup attempt the parlimentary right were the major beneficiaries from then on.

ejh - January 20, 2013

I mean that seeing as Soares won in 1976, it’s not necessarily obvious that the far left ruined it for him in 1974-6. It may be a view, but manifestly a debatable one.

richotto - January 20, 2013

It is debatable like anything else. I’m old enough to remember the events through the media during that time. Two years of the far left through army officer and left wing workers calling the shots ended with the failed coup attempt of 1976. The Socialists were discredited for being weak in dealing with the agaitation and and establishing civilian rule of law. After this two year process and the failed left coup attempt the main threat to democracy was seen as coming not from the right anymore but the left and support drifted quite dramatically after 1976 to the right wing Social Democrat Party.

Ed - January 21, 2013

“In reply to Ed above (there is no reply function below his contribution) you seem to move the goalposts when it suits you. De Gaulle did have an 80% thumping parlimentary majority which represented the legitimate views of the French only a month after the 1968 distrubances were supressed.”

No moving of goalposts, merely pointing out that the facts don’t support your argument as much as you appear to believe they do. As you noted yourself above, the breakdown of the popular vote in the second round of the 1968 legislative elections was 58-42 left-right; the fact that de Gaulle’s supporters had an 80% majority of seats in no way ‘represented the legitimate views of the French’; it reflected the division of the left parties, and the nature of the electoral system (which de Gaulle and his supporters had designed to suit their own interests).


“I looked at the results of the 1969 Presidential elections you mentioned. The left only took about 32% in the first round compared to 44% for the right.”

Which was higher than the first-round left vote in the 1965 presidential election. So the argument that May 1968 was a disaster for the parliamentary left parties, from which it took them a decade to recover, just flies in the face of reality.

“Yes, in 1974 Mitterand came very close but that was firstly due to the element of beauty contest of Presidential as opposed to parlimentary elections and secondly on the hope from a segment of the electorate that the centre left and not the far left were in the driving seat this time.”

Now who’s moving the goalposts? Mitterand gets 49% of the vote, almost 20% more than his score in 1965, six years after 1968; but it doesn’t count, apparently, because of questionable assertions that you now make. The French CP was still very powerful in 1974 (supported by one-fifth of the electorate, with a mass membership, leading the main TU federation etc.); everyone who voted for Mitterand knew that they would have a powerful voice in any left-wing government that was formed.

“It took another seven years for the centre left to complete the takeover from the Communists and become a “party of government”.”
Actually, the Union of the Left was set to win the 1978 legislative elections until the leadership of the French CP embarked on a suicide mission, breaking the alliance and concentrating all their fire on the Socialists during the election campaign. The difference between the left parties and the right-wing bloc then was still just 1%.


“What I would take from your above ideal scenario would be that the far left would somehow through creation of chaos take over the state and contrive to win an election by fair means or foul. I believe that a small minority of mainly students with just a few radical workers put the general left in a position which in retrospect they wanted to have it both ways when they should never have entertained questioning the legitimacy of the state as it was supported at that time by the vast majority of French.”

It’s a bit depressing that you would refer to the events of May 1968 – a tremendously exciting and liberating experience for all of those who took part, which included a very large cross-section of the French working class – as the ‘creation of chaos’ (nobody ‘created’ it, it was a largely spontaneous eruption of the French working class, no left leadership planned what was going to happen). I would happily trade that ‘chaos’ for the usual capitalist ‘order’ (which Ireland is getting a good dose of at the moment).

As I pointed out above, de Gaulle would have been on very fragile ground if he rejected the call for his resignation to allow a transitional government to hold new elections; he came to power in 1958 without any electoral mandate, after the elected government was overthrown by racist settlers and far-right army officers in Algiers. Coming to power on the back of a general strike supported by millions of people would have been far more democratic than that. Any student of twentieth-century French history will be able to tell you that the French Right has never hesitated to seize opportunities to bring down left or centre-left governments without troubling themselves too much about constitutional propriety: apart from 1958, they did it several times during the inter-war years. Anyway it’s difficult to sketch out anything more than the bare bones of this argument in a post here; I’d strongly recommend that anyone interested in May ’68 read Singer’s Prelude to Revolution, it’s a magnificent book and very readable.

“Had the orthodox left got even closer to the revolting radical left the damage done would have been far worse.”

But I don’t think you’ve supplied any evidence that there was much real ‘damage’ done by May 1968. The main problem for the parliamentary left parties in the late 60s and 70s was trying to expand the left electorate beyond those who already voted for the CP or the SFIO. I don’t think what happened in ’68 made that any harder; three years later, the two parties signed the Common Programme; three years after that, they came within a fraction of winning the presidential election.

richotto - January 21, 2013

The figures you put forward while a bit selective are accurate and point to a definite desire for change developing throughout the 60s and 70s as in the rest of west Europe. But that can be seen through the distribution of left vote at elections to be a popular desire for change in a moderate left direction. It can be convincingly argued that the role of the more radical left entities whether old style Communist or new left was a handicap and the electoral breakthrough came as a result later rather than
Up until the mid 60s it can be taken as read that as in Italy, that as long as the main left party is Communist that would be enough to ensure a right wing victory. When they did’nt stand in 1965 Presidential election Mitterand got 45% in the second round straight away. So there was a clear understanding that a left wing change was on the agenda for a lot of French if it could be done from somewhere in the political centre. There was a build up of frustrations with a conservative society undeniably. The 1968 uprising was originally based on student grievances against the education system and secondly workers wage grievances. These because of mishandling by the state became hijacked by unrepresentative far left student leaders who tried to occupy Paris and overthrow the democratic govt which was never on.
The cohesion of the left was broken in the second round of elections in 1968 as moderate and far left voters refused to vote for each others candidates. This gave De Gaulle his 80% majority. In 1969 Presidential a left candidate did’nt even make it through to the second round.
This problem for the left in France was only resolved by the assertion of control in the early 70s of the movement by the centre left. A strategic mistake by the Communists was made in 1978 electons but that was reversed afterwards. It became clear that the Communists were not the threat they were in a potential left wing govt with a gradually declining vote both absolutely and in comparison with the

Socialists. They also moderated their policies further with the
adoption of Eurocommunism.

Ed - January 22, 2013

Well ‘moderate left’ is a relative term there, the Common Programme that Mitterand and the Socialists signed up to in the early 70s would be considered far or even ultra-left in European politics today; their programme for the 1981 election was also pretty strong stuff by today’s standards.

You’re right that it was generally considered impossible for the French CP to win an election in the 60s and 70s; that was why they formed the alliance with Mitterand. I would argue that it wasn’t simply because they were considered too radical i.e too much in favour of public ownership, redistribution of wealth, withdrawal from NATO etc. It was also because their commitment to democracy was questionable to say the least, and a lot of people with left-wing views still would have had grave doubts about putting them at the head of a government with a parliamentary majority (Louis Althusser, who was a lifelong PCF member, made that very point after the 1978 elections when he wrote a series of articles attacking the party leadership). So in principle, if the CP had been just as far to the left on the issues that I mentioned above, but also had a strong record of support for democratic rights and had distanced itself clearly from the USSR, it could have won a lot more support than it did.

richotto - January 22, 2013

I agree with all of that. Theres a big gap of integrity then and now between French Socialists and what we are used to with Labour in Ireland and the Uk.
It struck me as a miricle that the Communists could hold on to their support for so long considering they seemed helplessly Stalinist, defending the indefensible. Even though they tried their best to adapt to the p.c. Eurocommunist trends of the 70s unlike the the Italian Communists their heart was’nt in it. I suppose you have to be French to understand. Apart from the usual majority of centre voters there’s a regular large percentage supporting parties on the extremes of left and right which dos’nt vary much even with lack of success.

ejh - January 20, 2013

in reply to Ed above (there is no reply function below his contribution)

I think the trick is to scroll up until you find one. This may be less than obvious.

14. Jolly Red Giant - January 19, 2013

The article is a run-of-the-mill anarchist critique (anarchist 101 as someone said). It is also riddled with factual errors and timeline distortions in order to enhance the critique. It’s a poor effort with lots of assumptions that really doesn’t do the anarchist view justice.

fergal - January 19, 2013

hard to get into this debate ,where do you begin?Spain in 1936 had legalised abortion……we don’t in 2012

15. Branno's ultra-left t-shirt - January 19, 2013

In reply to some comments above.
Yes, there are people who are pro-choice who are right-wing on economic issues. I’m sure many of the young people who marched over the Savita case would not attend a trade union march. A few (very few) of the pro-lifers are radical on economic issues. But in Ireland the conservative right is overwhelmingly Catholic and anti-abortion. Note where FG right-wingers like Crighton, and the Ganleyites are on this issue. Youth Defence are on the far-right. The majority of pro-choice activists come from the left. Deciding that young people’s anger over the Savita case means nothing because they are not out marching about austerity misses the point.
We have had 30 years of neo-liberalism, a supine ‘left’ and a trade union movement that grew lazy through social partnership. Don’t blame the kids man! (smiley face needed)

Gearóid - January 19, 2013


doctorfive - January 20, 2013

aye, largely agree with concerns & scepticism up thread but it’s better then getting you entry through a yes to yes to jobs campaign. It’s still people marching and talking who never left the house to stand for anything before. Majority of them women too.

Finbarr - January 20, 2013

I would also be interested to see doctorfive explain their view that it is better to get an entry through this pro choice campaign than a ‘yes to yes to jobs campaign’ (whatever that is?).

Finbarr - January 20, 2013

For my own part, it’s not about blaming the kids for anything. It’s also not about deciding that ‘young people’s anger over the Savita case means nothing’. My point is quite the opposite, it’s about what the anger of those young people represents.

It is quite true to say that the majority of pro chioce activists are left wing. However, those young people who are now exorcised by the Savita case are most definitely not left wing. I believe there is a considerable gap there.

There is, in my opinion, the mistake of some comrades of projecting their own pro choice views and principles onto the young people who are now being ‘radicalised’.

I would suggest that a better prism for understanding the anger of young people over the Savita case is not a sudden upsurge in pro chioce or left wing consciousness but the ‘modernisation’/neoliberalisation of Irish society over the last 30 years.

I would suggest that should full abortion rights be granted in the morning, it would make not one iota of difference to the class war that is currently being waged by FG/Labour.

doctorfive - January 20, 2013

I would suggest that should full abortion rights be granted in the morning, it would make not one iota of difference to the class war that is currently being waged by FG/Labour.

I don’t recall anyone in this thread imply it will. There are several matters that wouldn’t change overnight but are you suggesting the issues affecting women are not connected and crucial to the class or any other war taking place? Is it not a priority?

You say the ‘modernisation’/neoliberalisation of Irish society over the last 30 years but this just obvious and the same society we’re all living in. Within this swift is discarding of the previous 50 odd years of conservatism and if you go back through previous posts it’s the possible potential highlighted.

re. yes to jobs – this is in reference to the astroturf youth campaigns that spring up with much enthusiasm during EU referendums. It’s should be fairly obvious why what we’re seeing at the moment is favourable to mass uptake at young fine gael . I hardly expect people now marching to start quoting Guattari at you but you’re missing a considerable upswing in feminism over the last four or so years and not the strain that counts increasing consumerism as an end. There are more clusters taking shape now then there surely ever were. They’re near a better national network then the ULA in half the time.

16. Mark - January 20, 2013

Childish crap from a former member of the wsm. Proves what a failure the wsm has become. Former members of the wsm eddie conlon and Kevin Doyle have a lot to answer for.

critical media review - January 20, 2013


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,257 other followers

%d bloggers like this: