Left Archive: Report on International Socialists Conference 1975 – International Socialists (UK). March 18, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in International Socialists [UK], Irish Left Online Document Archive, Socialist Workers' Party.
To download this document please click on the following link: IS DOCREV2
The above document is a report for the SWM internal bulletin, from an SWM guest at the IS conference. Many thanks to the person who donated this to the Archive. They offer an outline of the contents of this document below:
In the light of the current crisis in the British Socialist Workers Party these documents throw light on a turning point in the party’s history. The SWP’s roots lie in the division of British Trotskyism in the late 1940s. A handful of activists, grouped around a Jewish Palestinian immigrant, Yigael Gluckstein (Tony Cliff) formed the Socialist Review Group. The group were not orthodox Trotskyists and indeed were regarded as somewhat heretical because of their espousal of the theory of state capitalism regarding the USSR, their non-apocalyptic perspective (they suggested capitalism was getting stronger, not on the verge of collapse) and their dangerously libertarian, somewhat ‘Luxemburgist’ attitude towards party structure. On the far-left Cliff’s group were regarded as modest, practical and possessing a sense of humour about themselves, certainly in contrast to their rivals in British Trotskyism.
The SRG grew slowly, changing their name to the International Socialists in 1962. The IS was able to take advantage of the ferment of the Vietnam War and student protest to recruit several hundred young members by 1968. Unlike some of the other far-left groups, who were carried away by student protests or the lure of Third World guerilla struggles, the IS contended that the working class remained central to socialist strategies. They had a small core of working-class militants, some of them ex-members of the Communist Party. They embarked on a strategy of focusing on workplace sales of their paper, Socialist Worker, and of building rank and file groups among union activists. As working class militancy escalated in the early 1970s the IS was able to grow modestly among manual workers, recruiting miners, steel workers, in the car industry and transport. (Three respected London dock shop stewards, Eddie Prevost, Bob Light and Mickey Fenn, all former CP members, joined IS during this period for example.) Rank and file groups were set up for teachers, nurses and local government workers as well as in the factories. At one point the organisation even set up factory branches. (The best history of the organisation in those years is Jim Higgin’s memoir More Years For the Locust).
As Higgins notes:
‘The Bellevue Socialist Worker Rally, in Nov 1973, was successful with 1,200 people attending. The following April, the Rank and File Conference was held in the Digbeth Hall, Birmingham. Some 600 trade unionists applied for credentials and it is possible to gauge the effectiveness of the previous work with rank and file papers by the fact that of 32 TGWU branches participating eight of them were from London bus garages where Platform circulated. Hospital Worker encouraged nine NUPE branches, two T&G and one COHSE branch to send delegates. Carworker was influential in getting 21 AUEW and TGWU branches in the motor industry and 27 shop stewards’ committees to the conference. In all more than 300 trade union bodies applied for credentials, including 249 trade union branches, 40 combine and shop stewards’ committees, 19 trades councils together with a few strike committees and occupations.
If this did not look like the Petrograd Soviet in 1917, or 1905 come to that, it was a very creditable event. It is true that a majority of the contributions from the floor were from IS members; it was still a matter of consequence that they were all experienced trade unionists with something credible and apposite to say. Better still was the fact that there was a not insignificant number of non-IS militants who spoke in support of the programme and in favour of a continuing organisation to develop the rank and file movement. Outstanding among these was George Anderson, chairman of the joint shop stewards’ committee at Coventry Radiators, and Joe McGough, convenor of Dunlop Speke and chairman of the Dunlop National Combine Committee.’
Higgins argues that the IS in the mid-1970s missed ‘the very best chance we have had since the 1920s to build a serious revolutionary socialist organisation.’ As the documents reproduced here reflect, the prospect of revolution in Portugal had also raised hopes of radical change. But within the IS the problems of maintaining a workplace focus were becoming apparent. (Note too the role members played in trying to dampen anti-Irish feeling in the car factories in Birmingham after the November 1974 bombings).
The IS would see several small splits over the next few years, many of them raising questions about the leadership’s commitment to internal democracy, and in 1977, at the urging of Cliff and his supporters, would transform itself into the SWP, an avowedly ‘Leninist’ party. (Cliff’s three volume biography of Lenin has been unkindly described as being like a biography of John the Baptist by Christ himself). The turn to the SWP was accompanied by another round of splinters.
The effect of these was not readily apparent because the party’s central role in anti-fascist struggles and in unemployment agitation meant that it continued to recruit young workers into the late 1970s. By the 1980s this had changed however. The advent of Thatcher and Reagan saw the party adopt the perspective of the ‘Downturn’: the workers movement was on the defensive internationally and therefore a rank and file perspective was unrealistic. Instead the party concentrated again on student recruitment which meant that by the mid-1980s, while claiming a membership of 4,000, the SWP was heavily white-collar and student based. A small number of manual workers remained but for a variety of reasons the period of the early 1970s marked their only serious toehold in the broader working class. The party however maintained a full time apparatus, a weekly paper and a presence that could sustain itself through the next two decades. As a member in the 1980s, the early 70s were always held up as an example of how the party could grow in a period of workers struggle. Why a large chunk of that membership and influence were lost was never adequately explained. It is unlikely that the party will ever get an opportunity like that again. Current events suggest that they would not deserve it.
By More in sadness than in anger.
Left Archive: Socialist Worker Review, (Socialist Workers Tendency – Socialist Workers Movement, later SWP) Socialist Labour Party, No. 1, February 1978 January 21, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Socialist Labour Party (Ireland), Socialist Workers Tendency (SLP Ireland), Socialist Workers' Party.
To download the above file please click on the following link: SOCIALIST WORKER REV
This is an unusual document, in that it was produced by the Socialist Workers Tendency within the Socialist Labour Party. The Socialist Labour Party was formed in 1977 by Matt Merrigan of the ATGWU and Noël Browne, in part as an outgrowth of the Liaison Committee of the Labour Left, and as a continuation of the goals of the LCLL, the development of a strong left alternative. Structurally the SLP incorporated open factions – the SWT being only one of a number, others including ones based around the Irish Workers’ Group and People’s Democracy. The SWT was mainly composed of members of the Socialist Workers’ Movement (which later became the Socialist Workers’ Party). However its stay in the SLP was relatively short, the SWT leaving to reform the SWM in 1979.
Under the heading Socialist Worker Review there is the following outline of goals:
Socialist Worker Review is produced by a group of members of the SLP. The magazine is published monthly and will argue for the following points.
Opposition to National Wage Agreements or wage restraint in any form and argue for the building of a rank and file movement in the unions to fight for union democracy and militant policies.
Support for the struggles of the unemployed and oppose redundancies and productivity deals.
Opposition to state repression and argue for trade union action to oppose repression.
Support for the women’s struggle in all areas, economic and social.
A socialist answer to the national question based on the unity of the working class.
Interestingly it also notes that ‘The supporters of this magazine will constitute the Socialist Workers Tendency’.
And in the editorial, entitled ‘A Rising Tide?’ it notes that:
Up to now the Irish left has failed to provide such a [socialist] party which had real roots in the working class movement.
The formation of the SLP, though, has changed the picture somewhat. Though essentially a development from the 26 county Irish labour Party it has acted as a pole of attraction for all sorts of different strands on the left. It has, in fact, taken on a much more left-wing and radical character, than many of its original founders conceived.
Yet the SLP is not as yet a revolutionary party. it needs to match the many fine aspirations that are contained in its constitution with deeds. It needs to sort out many of the theoretical issues on how socialism is to be achieved in Ireland. Many comrades in the party still place considerable emphasis on the role of parliament. Others do not see the validity or legitimacy of working in the trade unions to oppose the sell-outs of the bureaucracy.
The SLP is a party which is developing. It can still go in two different directions. It can return to the electoral traditions of the LLP or it can seek to build itself as a revolutionary party which fights for direct working class action in the here and now.
And it concludes. This magazine will aim to put forward the ideas and the experience of Marxism in a readable and understandable format. It will aim to apply those ideas to the everyday problems we face.
The remainder of the contents is wide ranging with a long piece on Bloody Sunday: Six years after, another on the S.L.P. and the Left – which attempts to ‘define the SLP in relation to the other left groups’ and seeks ‘a definite break with the old LP type reformism’. There’s another piece critiquing and criticising National Wage Agreements, and another one on conditions in prisons. There’s also a piece by John Goodwillie which considers the development of the Socialist Workers Movement. Finally there is a review section.
In the piece on the SLP and the Left, John Goodwillie writes:
The field of action on which the SLP arrives is, however, already partly occupied by others, notably Sinn Féin the Workers’ Party and the Communist Party of Ireland, but also the Socialist Party of Ireland and smaller groups. one of the principal problems in front of the SLP will be to distinguish itself from the Stickies and the Communist Party. To say that it is necessary to be different does not preclude the joint platform, such as the Liaison Committee of the Left were previously involved in the ‘Left Alternative’. Clearly there is some common ground…
But socialism does not just consider of spreading state enterprise and state planing to other areas of the economy. it also means workers’ control of those firms, of the mechanisms of state planning, of the state itself.
It is here the SLP must present an alternative to the authoritarian nature of those parties, to their defence of the authoritarian systems of Eastern Europe, to their confusion between the state and the workers… Sinn Féin and the Communist Party think in terms of capturing the top of the state. The S.L.P. must think in terms of convincing the bottom, the working class. on that base the rest will follow.
It has been said that the SWT publication was more professional than that of the SLP as a whole. Certainly it is a very professional production, magazine-like, well designed and well printed. In the absence of any SLP specific material this is an important addition to the Archive.
Left Archive: Citizenship and Racism: The Case against McDowell’s Referendum, Kieran Allen, SWP, 2004 September 24, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Socialist Workers' Party.
To download the above file please click on the following link:
Many thanks to Liam Cullinane for donating this to the Archive.
This document was written by Kieran Allen as a response to the Twenty-seventh Amendment of the Irish Constitution. This was a measure introduced by Michael McDowell, Progressive Democrat Minister of Justice in the Fianna Fáil led coalition in 2004 to remove the constitutional right of citizenship to the children of non-nationals living in Ireland.
The referendum was passed with just under 80 per cent of the vote.
Although not explicitly an SWP document it has a membership form and a subscription form for Socialist Worker as well as noting that in addition to being a lecturer in the Department of Sociology in UCD he is ‘a leading member of the SWP’.
It’s a well produced document with a punchy style from the Introduction ‘McDowell discovers too many black babies’ through Chapters which engage with maternity services, the nature of citizenship in the Republic in constitutional terms, ‘Racist myths and spongers’ and so on. Chapter 4 is entitled ‘Why right-wing parties are racist’ and Chapter 6 asks ‘Where does racism come from?’
There are some interesting points. For example Allen writes:
Jackie Healy Rae TD for South Kerry has little time for asylum seekers. He defended comments by his son that the vast majority were ‘freeloaders, blackguards and hoodlums’ and claimed that there were 80,000 of them in the country, most of whom had arrived on the back of a lorry.
Bizarre nonsense you might think. But two months earlier, the same Jackie Healy Rae wrote a letter on behalf of a constituent wishing to accommodate asylum seekers.
And there is some interesting analysis as to why Michael McDowell and the Progressive Democrats would invest so much time in the referendum when ‘the PDs are close to the employers organisation, IBEC… [which] has repeatedly said it wants more immigrants in Ireland to deal with labour shortages’.
The Irish government did not invent racism. they drew on ideas that have long been around in Western society.
And later when discussing Marx’s thoughts on Irish workers in Britain:
Marx’s point that the rulers had a continuing interest in creating division between workers. Racist ideas strengthened the power of the big corporations. Through fostering divisions, it made it impossible to organise properly against the employers – and thus all suffered.
The solution came when Irish migrant workers were organised into unions and joined the fight for better conditions. Their expression of oppression often meant that they became the best fighters and local leaders of many British unions. This did not mean that racism was completely eradicated – it would still require a political fight within the labour movement to challenge support for imperialism.
Nevertheless the point is still relevant today.Modern capitalism has the same interest in stoking up racism as it had in the nineteenth century. And workers have a common interest in fighting it.
The conclusion argues that:
We can live in a society where there is an exciting flowering of different dresses, foods and cultures. We can abolish passports, work permits, border check points. But we can only do this by uprooting the system of capitalism which has created all these relics. A socialist society will not only tackle extremes of poverty and wealth – it will also vastly increase the scope of human liberty. Not only will it abolish extremes of wealth and poverty, it will give people the right to move around this planet freely. And that is an eminently good reason to get active and to organise.
Quick Impressions of the NI Assembly Elections May 7, 2011Posted by Garibaldy in Democratic Unionist Party, Irish Republican Socialist Party, Northern Ireland, Socialist Party, Socialist Workers' Party, Workers' Party.
Results so far (early hours of Saturday morning but should be updated regularly).
A very good day for the DUP; a very bad one for the UUP and TUV.
SF has done well, SDLP not so well.
Alliance has done very well, including topping the poll in South Belfast.
DUP/SF increasingly dominant – around twice as many votes as their UUP/SDLP rivals.
Greens in with a real chance of a seat in North Down.
Dawn Purvis nearly certain to lose her seat, and Brian Ervine won’t retake it for the PUP.
Very good election for the PBPA, although I’m not sure there will be enough transfers for McCann to take the seat looking at how close the SDLP candidate ranked 7th is after the first count, and vote of lowest place SF and SDLP candidates. West Belfast result also eye-catching, more than doubling the vote to 1661 (4.8%). Please correct me if this is a mistake but looking at Belfast City Council’s list of candidates for west Belfast constituences, I don’t think the PBPA is standing in the local council elections in west Belfast, making it harder to judge to what those votes are overwhelmingly a core PBPA vote, or if some have been leant to them by éirígí/IRSP-type voters given that these parties aren’t standing in the Assembly election, but are standing in the council. I heard one estimate that put éirígí on around 1,000 (I think for both Upper and Lower Falls combined, but forgot to ask) although the council counting will be much slower than the Assembly.
Results in south and east Belfast for the left could have been better but the PBPA will think it did quite well in south Belfast. This is fairly worring given that they would have in the past been places the left would have looked to for growth.
The Socialist Party will probably be most pleased with its 384 votes in west Belfast (1.1%) out of the constituencies where it ran, while the south and east Belfast votes are fairly static.
The Workers’ Party vote in east and south Belfast is pretty static, but more than doubled in North Belfast (possibly the most sectarian electoral area in NI) to 332 (1%), its highest vote there since the early 1990s and had the highest number and percentage for more than a decade in west Belfast (586, 1.7%).
The total vote for the WP, PBPA, and SP is close to 7,500, (1.1% of the overall vote), with most of it going to the PBPA as expected. If you were to take Dawn Purvis’s 1,700-odd votes as primarily left votes (and there are reasons not to), about 1.4%. This gives a pretty sobering assessment of where the left stands in NI, especially when you remember the disproportionate percentage of the vote achieved by two candidates.
The council elections results are going to be more interesting still in light of these results, especially in Derry.
Left Archive: International Socialism 51, International Socialists (UK), April-June 1972 May 2, 2011Posted by WorldbyStorm in International Socialists [UK], Irish Left Online Document Archive, Socialist Workers' Movement, Socialist Workers' Party.
To download the above file please click on the following link: INTL SOC 72
This is an handsome document, issued by the International Socialists in Britain, predecessors of the SWP [UK], in 1972, is a special issue with a focus on Ireland.
The range of contributors is striking, from amongst others Eamonn McCann, John Palmer and Brian Trench. McCann considers ‘After 5th October 1968′, Palmer ‘The Gombeen Republic’ and Trench ‘The Two Nations Fallacy’ and there is ‘A factual survey’ of the Six Counties by Paul Gerhardt.
The article by Brian Trench is, perhaps, of particular interest in that it engages directly with the Irish Communist Organisation which it describes as a ‘reactionary Stalinist sect’. And it notes that ‘this group moved within the course of one year from describing Paisleyites as fascists to seeing them as the organised expression of legitimate Protestant national demands’.
It further argues that ‘in adopting this position, the ICO, and others who have since followed them, condemned themselves to inactivity. While state forces attacked the opponents of the Unionist regime, and the nationalist population in general, the advocates of the ‘two nations’ theory were so concerned with distancing themselves from supposed Catholic nationalist desires to oppress the Protestants, that they were unable to oppose the actual repression!’
The Eamonn McCann piece has an interesting analysis on some of the reasons for the emergence of the Provisionals, one of which it ascribes to the Left being ‘still imprisoned within the sectarian strait jacket, forced to operate almost excluseively within the Catholic community but unable to give any clear lead to the Catholic masses… and unwilling to cause a split in the [Defence Committee] barricaded area [in Derry] and doubtful about the extent of its own support, it never seriously attempted to wrest leadership from the moderates’.
The raging bitterness of the Catholics in Belfast especially after the August days was certain sooner or later to swamp Fitt and Hume. Emotions were too strong to be contained for long within the thin shell of timid respectability. The Provisionals filled the vacuum created by the effective absence of the left and the irrelevance of the right.
This last point is of some interest, given the concentration in many accounts of the period on the left and less focus on right and centre right forces and the part they played.
The Palmer piece is also of interest as it engages with the nature of British capital in the Irish economy.
And it notes that “The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates that between a third and a half of all manufacturing concerns are either controlled or owned outright by British firms. Perhaps 70 per cent of the 100 largest companies in the Twenty-six counties are British controlled in part or entirely.”
In 1971 profits totalling £21 millions – 60 per cent of total profits of all publicly quoted companies – were pocketed by British investors.
Also published is the Programme of the Socialist Workers Movement. This is headlined as follows:
An important development in Irish Politics is the appearance of the Socialist Workers Movement, a marxist organisation based largely in the republic but with connections in the six counties.
It’s a fascinating document, not least because of the more contemporary echoes. Consider by way of example a review by one Chris Hitchens, or the list of names on the editorial board. Also note the front cover, a painting by Robert Ballagh and the short and sympathetic piece on the Underground Press which examines Oz, Time Out and IT magazines.
The Left Archive: Troops Out – 1980, Socialist Workers Party (UK) December 21, 2009Posted by irishonlineleftarchive in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Socialist Workers' Party.
As part of the Archive which addresses perceptions of the conflict on the island of Ireland during the past century, this is a useful example of the view from the Socialist Workers Party in Britain. This document starts with an Introduction that asserts:
British troops were sent to ‘keep the peace’ in Northern Ireland in August 1969. Eleven years and almost 2000 deaths later the army remains on the streets. The violence that followed their arrival has been far greater than what went before.
We live in the shadow of that war. It affects us in many different ways. We in the SWP – and many other socialists too – believe that the only way to end the war for the benefit of the workers of Ireland and Britain is to get the troops out of Northern Ireland, and to get them out now.
In these short pages we answer the arguments of those who oppose this view: Won’t there be a bloodbath? Surely the troops are keeping the peace over there? We will also look at some of the things that workers in this country can do to bring this war to an end.
And the same near chatty semi-informal style continues throughout.
The history of the development of the ‘Civil Rights Movement’ is given in a rather brief form, as seeen on page 5…
Against this discrimination the CRM marched, peacefully. But however ‘moderate’ their demands, these threatened the privileges of the Protestants that were the very foundation of the government and state of Northern Ireland. The government replied with force.
No mention is made of the genesis of the modern part of the conflict and the document seems to propose rather more continuity than most might accept…
‘While such a government and such a [sectarian] police force existed [in NI], the majority of Catholics knew their only protection lay in defending themselves. They determined that any future attacks would not find them unprepared. The IRA, previously a small, isolated group, started to grow rapidly. The growth of the IRA added a new political dimension to the situation, or more accurately it resurrected an old one. For the IRA had fought for a united Irish republic since before the partition of 1921. The open involvement of Republicans now raised the stakes from the pursuit of civil rights to the struggle for a re-united Ireland.
The Provisional IRA (and there is no differentiation in terms of the IRA’s) is presented as being ‘an essentially working-class organisation’…
The fact is that the growth of the Provisionals was essentially a defensive reaction to the presence of the British Army and the violence it uses. The IRA barely existed before the present ‘troubles’ began in 1969, and emerged from the remnants of the old republican movement to defend the Catholic areas against attacks by loyalists, the RUC, and then the Army.
When it became clear that the Northern Ireland state was not capable of being ‘reformed’, the Provisionals went onto the offensive.
An interesting analysis.
And the document is unequivocal in its support of the IRA.
As socialists we give full support to all those who fight oppression and for the right of self-determination, whereever in the world they may be. This applies equally to the Provisionals, who are fighting a war against the oppression of a minority in Britain’s oldest colony.
But this does not mean that we necessarily support the politics of the Provisionals, nor we consider them socialists, nor that we support all the tactics they use.
And perhaps an overly optimistic reading of the future, given that it was 1980.
Recently, however, the Provisional IRA have moved significantly away from their old traditions and are more receptive to explicitly socialist ideas. This does not mean they have made a clean break with the politics of nationalism, but it is a step towareds the struggle for a socialist republic.
But whatever the criticisms we have of the politics of the Provisionals and other Republican groups, and their resulting tactics, we have to be clear that the people of Ireland have every right to control of their own country and the Provisionals are a leading force in that struggle.
There’s some useful material on what the SWP believes can be done in the UK context to argue for Troops Out.
The pamphlet itself is attributed on the inside cover to ‘members of the South Manchester and North London districts of the Socialist Workers Party’.
A welcome addition to the Archive this week with a copy of The Worker from the SWM. It’s a reasonably well produced broadsheet magazine, eight pages long. The black and red colour scheme is fairly striking.
In terms of content it takes a strongly all-island approach and one that is profoundly hostile to the state in both jurisdictions.
There is a strong emphasis on industrial actions and union issues. So one reads articles on the struggles in Chrysler and Unidare, and the level of detail is considerable. There is a piece on the Irish Defence Forces which unsurprisingly paints the training regimen in the most negative of terms.
Yet it is not confined to that, there are articles on RUC and British army ‘counter-revolutionary warfare’ and a deliberate effort to make a linkage between the situation in the North and that in workplaces.
In addition to that is an excoriating article on Official Republicanism on page 5 which takes them to task for talking with the UVF. Interestingly, though, on the previous page it recommends that for he local elections in the Republic:
If there is a left-wing candidate of any variety standing in your area, although we would criticise him [sic] in detail, he should be given a vote. Such candidates would be those of Sinn Fein (Gardiner Place) and the Communist Party, left-wing members of the Labour Party and of Sinn Féin (Kevin Street) and individuals standing on a left-wing platform.
The Left Archive: Ireland: The Socialist Answer, Socialist Organiser, 1989 – Part 2 October 20, 2008Posted by WorldbyStorm in Communist Party of Ireland, Irish Left Online Document Archive, Sinn Féin, Socialist Organiser, Socialist Party, Socialist Workers' Party, Workers' Party.
As promised, and with an unexpected hiatus last week, the second part of Ireland: The Socialist Answer from Socialist Organiser.
The first part can be found here.
Just a further note. Consider that this document charts the views of all the significant left protagonists in Ireland at the time, from the Workers’ Party, the SWM, Militant, Sinn Féin, CPI and so on. And it also looks at the position of the British Labour Party and has contributions from Tony Benn.
One may quibble with its conclusions, but it would appear to be the most comprehensive overview of the area produced at that time.
The files, as previously noted, are fairly large so I’ve broken them up for easier download.
Smaller files… fewer pages:
Pages 35 – 51 (file size – 6.9mbs): itsa-35-51
Pages 52 – 68 (file size – 7.2mbs): itsa-52-68
One big file…
Pages 35 – 68 (file size – 14.1mbs): itsa-35-68
The Left Archive: “Socialists, Republicanism and the Armed Struggle” from the Socialist Workers’ Movement c. 1991. May 19, 2008Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Socialist Workers' Party.
This week a short pamphlet from the Socialist Workers’ Movement dating from 1991, written by Kieran Allen and entitled: Socialists, Republicanism and the Armed Struggle. To some degree this serves as a backdrop to the piece by Ed Hayes here, from last September on the SWM/SWP and the North.
Unfortunately it lacks a cover page, and if anyone has a copy of it I’d be very grateful if they could scan it and forward it to worldbystorm AT eircom.net.
Anyhow, this pamplet provides an interesting overview of the development of the armed struggle and republicanism. A position of critical support, familiar to those of us who have viewed the approach of the SWM/SWP over the years is articulated towards Provisional IRA, whereas the ‘reformists’ in Official Sinn Féin and the Communist Party are dismissed as ‘following Stalinist politics, [holding] to a ‘stages approach’. It’s not just the usual suspects who come in for criticism. People’s Democracy are lambasted for not having ‘ [a] real attempt to argue any particular strategy’. Ironically they are characterised in the latter part of the conflict as ‘becoming uncritical supporters of the Provos, writing off the Protestant working class as semi-fascist and seeing the Catholic ghettoes of the North as the vanguard for the Irish revolution’.
That said, harsh words for Sinn Féin who it is argued ‘are incapable of making an advance towards socialism – [and]… is unable to reach its own stated goals of uprooting Orange privilege and ending partition. Although it has won the adherence of some of the best fighters in the nationalist ghettoes of West Belfast and Derry, its base is still among an oppressed minority’.
And the SWM? ‘[having] made it clear where we stand in the fight between the republican led struggle and the British army, it is also necessary to subject the republicans to firm criticism over their politics and tactics. This criticism is made from the standpoint of those who support the struggle against the British army and partition. It has nothing in common with the hypocritical and moralist denunciations of those who support the British army’.
But… for those who might question the relevance of such a critique (or indeed whether it would be taken seriously by the ‘best fighters in the nationalist ghettoes’)the pamphlet is very clear that… ‘the experience of the last two decades across the world, however, shows why ours is the absolutely correct attitude’.
The pamphlet does offer a coherent critique (in its own terms) considering the efficacy of armed struggle. That this leads to some ideological oddities – for example the statement that ‘[it] would be wrong [for the SWM] to call for a ceasefire… [because] we as socialists never align with the right wing..’ is an interesting statement on any number of different levels – is perhaps inevitable.
And the solution? Well, not that different from the myriad of paths offered by other, often competing, formations.
Party rejection of treaty ‘a mandate to support it’, says Gormley as EU Treaty divide firms up. January 20, 2008Posted by franklittle in European Politics, European Union, Green Party, Greens, Irish Politics, Media and Journalism, Minor Left Parties, Sinn Féin, Socialist Workers' Party, The Left.
It’s a great headline to the story that yesterday’s Green Party conference failed to agree a position of either opposing or supporting the forthcoming Lisbon Treaty. It is pretty clear that the majority of Green Party delegates decided to back the party leadership’s call for a Yes vote. Whether it was because they felt that as a party in government they had to do so, or because they had a road to Damascus conversion on the issue like the previously vehemently EU-critical Deirdre de Burca (She wasn’t a Senator then of course), or simply because that always substantial section of the party that supported both Nice referendums and was generally more in line with the European Green movement, now commands a majority.
The Greens are calling for plaudits for the fact that they had an open debate and reached a decision democratically. Leaving aside Gormley’s imaginative interpretation of that vote I suppose, grudgingly, one must acknowledge as much though frankly attempting to lecture other political parties for not doing the same kind of misses the point. No left-wing party would need to debate opposition to Lisbon any more than it would need to debate support for public services or opposition to privatisation. Basic left principles such as support for democracy, opposition to neo-liberalism, opposition to centralisation of unaccountable power and so on make opposing the Treaty a bit of a no-brainer.
It will be interesting to see the practical implications of this for the party though. Since the Green Party does not have a position, can Green Party staff issue press releases in support of the Treaty when they’re supposed to be working for a party that has no position on it? Can the Green Party TDs and Senators use Green Party premises to conduct their Yes campaigning? And as for the No campaign, what organisation or vehicle will they use to advance their arguments? A number are involved already on a personal level in the Campaign Against the EU Constitution, which I am told will be changing its name because the EU has decided to change the name of the document, does this mean they will now move into that structure or will they established a Greens Against Lisbon grouping of some sort?
There might be some suggestion that the Yes side has been undermined by the failure of the Green leadership to get two-third on Saturday, but I’m not so sure. It’s pretty clear that the Green leadership, for whatever reason, carried the bulk of their membership with them and are likely to carry the bulk of Green voters come the referendum. The loss of the Green Party’s organisational muscle is a negligible one. The Greens don’t have the money at the minute to run a major campaign and in both Nice referendums their work on the ground was pretty weak. Where they were key in previous referendums was that in Gormley especially, but also De Burca and McKenna, they had articulate, experienced and educated debaters to be rolled out on the media who could argue for a No vote without being republicans, socialists or working class and scaring middle Ireland too much.
Meanwhile, among the anti-Treaty campaigns, there has been some frustration that the SWP has established another front entity to campaign against the Lisbon Treaty while aleady being affiliated to the Campaign Against the EU Constitution, established a couple of years ago when the EU Constitution was first being put forward. Happily, in a remarkable display of honesty for one of the most duplicitous political entities in Ireland, the SWP has altered the site since it was first put up to acknowledge that the people identified behind it, Kieran Allen and Sinead Kennedy, are both members of the Socialist Workers Party. Still, there is some ill-feeling that they went ahead off their own bat without consulting other people in the CAEUC.
Also of interest is that it is the SWP that has both established the website and it affiliated to the CAEUC. Firstly, the SWP’s affiliation to the CAEUC is quite a recent one, and as late as early last year a prominent member of the SWP told me they honestly didn’t see the EU Constitution/Lisbon Treaty issue as a priority. Certainly SWP activists were noticeable by their absence from early CAEUC meetings. Yet here we have them setting up a website, publishing a pamphlet outlining he reasons for a No vote, describing it as a key priority in their New Year’s message and affiliating to the CAEUC. Curiously, there is no reference to People Before Profit, their previous electoral front group. The PBP website has not been updated for several months and seems to have no position, good, bad or indifferent, on the Lisbon Treaty. Considering the use that could be made by the SWP out of Lisbon for attracting people to the organisation, it’s a slight surprise to me they’re being upfront about who they are in the campaign and not using the PBP brand.
But more frustrating than the SWP playing ‘silly buggers’ has been the annoyance felt by many, and ably pointed out by Daily Mail columnist Joe Higgins in last Thursday’s Irish Times, about the media’s appointment of Dermot Ganley as head of the anti-Treaty movement in Ireland. Ganley, and his Libertas movement, with no track record on Europe at all, has come from almost nowhere at the start of December to being seen as a key played in the Lisbon Treaty debate. Libertas certainly has money, but no actual organisation as such, though it’s clearly got some smart people doing the media. But Higgins rightly points out that the media, and the Irish Times in particular, has been doing what it can to portray the anti-Treaty campaigns and groups, predominantly left-wing or progressive in Ireland, as right-wing or even fascist. It’s what the media tried to do in both Nice referendums, successfully in the latter case.
But the reason for the Dermot Ganley love-fest has two other aspects. Firstly, if Ganley is the leader of the No campaign, then no other organisation or individual can be leader. With Sinn Féin the only substantial political party to be opposing the Treaty and, at this point in time, the only serious political organisation to be opposing it, the media would find it difficult to avoid handing the mantle of leadership of the No side to Sinn Féin if Ganley wasn’t there. Considering that party’s weakened position, the last thing the Irish media establishment wants to do is give it the shot in the arm of portraying it as leading anything. With Ganley on the chessboard, he can be appointed figurehead, sparing the need to pay attention to what the Shinners are doing.
Secondly, Ganley is a businessman, and a successful one. Most other opponents of the Treaty in Ireland are left-wing, they wear beards, many of them are in trade unions and some have stood on the side of the road holding placards. The Irish media worships business and successful businessmen. A successful businessperson can have his or her opinion taken seriously on any topic in Irish society, whether he or she knows anything about it or not and it’s clear Ganley has some understanding of the Treaty, simply by virtue of the fact that he or she has made a success at business. Ganley is credible in a way that people like Patricia McKenna or Mick O’Reilly, people with far vaster experience of anti-EU Treaty campaigns and a much better understanding of the Treaty than Ganley, can never be.