Well…..that was certainly fun May 28, 2007Posted by franklittle in Greens, Irish Election 2007, Irish Politics, Labour Party, Sinn Féin, The Left.
Two little soundbites from activists on the frontline on Friday. The Shinner who compared what he was seeing in the RDS and hearing from Tallaght, where they were about to lose the seat, to ‘…being repeatedly kicked in the balls by people you’d thought you’d beaten.’ A Labour comrade, asked where her friends in Labour Youth were, told me they’d all gone out of the RDS to sit in the pub and ‘stare vacantly into space, shell-shocked and numb.’
Since Friday I have been unable to open a newspaper and I have yet to check out politics.ie, I’m simply not up to it. It’s difficult to pick yourself up from the floor after seeing some of the most corrupt and incompetent political leaders our generation has ever seen, be swept back to power.
But before we descend into a morass of depression, a bit of perspective. This wasn’t a great election for the Left in Ireland. But it wasn’t a disaster. This wasn’t a Fine Gael style 2002 meltdown. Labour and the Shinners both dropped a seat each. The Greens held firm even though they lost Dan Boyle. The loss of fine working class representatives like Seamus Healy, Catherine Murphy and Joe Higgins are deeply regrettable, but the world has not stopped turning. The left vote broadly held up, in part because more candidates were run by the Greens and Sinn Féin, but the percentage share of the Left vote didn’t collapse.
On the credit side, the Progressive Democrats are likely finished as a political party. Michael McDowell, a man I personally believed was one of the greatest threats to civil liberties in this country, has been kicked out of public life. The ideological core of our opponents has been gutted, and gutted far worse than us.
Our depression is so great not because we lost five seats, but because our hopes and expectations were so great. All of us expected Sinn Féin and the Greens to make breakthroughs. I thought the SP would pick up one and Labour hold it’s own. Instead we took a battering. There was a shift to Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil as the voters approached the election as a choice between two Taoiseachs. There was a swing against the left. In terms of specific political parties, Sinn Féin must rue a poor national campaign with a policy platform that seemed to change day by day and some disastrous media performances. Labour too must re-examine it’s strategy in the run-up to the election.
Broadly defined, the Left in the Dáil lost five seats. Bad day at the office? Cause for re-examination and debate? A few tears? A lot of booze to number the pain? Absolutely. But it’s not quite on a par with Thatcher’s re-election in ’92, Bush’s second term or even, in the Irish context, some of the dark days in the North. We’ve taken worse hits than this, a lot worse, and we’ve come back at them.
To paraphrase Joe Hill, don’t mourn — organise. We lost an election but resistance continues right across this country. From the comrades fighting in Rossport and elsewhere against multinational exploitation of our resources, to those at Tara fighting to protect our heritage, to the anti-war activists at Shannon, to newly founded Choice Ireland, to the willingness of the nurses to take on the Government, to anti-racists and communities fighting against incinerators or planning decisions.
Electoralism is only one front in our struggle. An important one, both in itself and because gains electorally can be used to strengthen our work in other areas through access to more resources and publicity, but not the only one.
So let’s sit down and analyse. Let’s see where we made mistakes, what went wrong, what went right. Let’s be honest and forthright, but above all, be comradely in our discussions. Make sure and remember, for those of you too young to maybe have experienced it before, what being beaten feels like. For those of us who’ve been throught it, open up some of the old wounds and lash the salt into them and remember why we hate to lose.
And then pick yourself up, dust yourself down, quit your whining and get back out there.