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The Left Archive: “The Necessity of Social Democracy” by Eoghan Harris, Workers’ Party 1990 June 2, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Workers' Party.
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necessitysocdem

There are a select few documents or speeches that can rip a political party or movement apart. When written they lay bare some underlying problem or prod consciences into action. On the Personality Cult and its Consequences delivered by Kruschev in 1956 is an example. The Wealth of the Nation: The Necessity of Social Democracy, by Eoghan Harris (with considerable assistance from the indefatigable Eamonn Smullen) isn’t .

That is not to say that it didn’t have some impact on the Workers’ Party. It did result in a sort of fractional schism of Workers’ Party members, those centered around Eoghan Harris departing for the ideological wilderness – or the media – dependent upon taste. Nor is it to say that in what it said it was completely wrong. There are some interesting points, some provocative points and indeed some good points. But they’re not necessarily the same points.

Its main import is perhaps to indicate the direction Harris et al would take, their own sense of importance within the party, and indeed the chaos that ensued on an ideological level with the changes within – and eventual dissolution of – the USSR. For some that meant a vindication of non-statist and anti-Stalinist approaches. For others a retreat into orthodoxy of the most predictable (and prolix) sort. Still others tried to carve out a niche between social democracy and the further left. But for Harris (and let us not forget Smullen – for the text contains both the rather gloomy Smullen style added to the near unbelievable chattiness of Harris in full flow) the answer was… social democracy.

The document is long, and perhaps better analysed at some other point. I’ll be interested in comments, but for a taste of the style of writing and analysis two examples will suffice.

We read in the Smullen penned introduction that:

This pamphlet argues that the word ‘socialism’ is now a brake on progress. It proposes a return to the revolutionary roots of social democracy and a commitment to ‘revolutionary reformism’, defined as reformist struggle conducted with revolutionary zeal for democratic ends – not in parliament only but in all spheres of civil society.

This critique marries Marxist theory to democratic politics and sets out a strategy for struggle within – and behalf of – a democratic pluralist political system where ideas will be the only acceptable currency of change…

Harris later writes that:

Before 1989 socialists always said ‘we’ never ‘I’. This suppression of self, more fitting for Poor Clares than followers of the self-confident Karl Marx, led to a self-satisfied and self-imposed silence in socialist parties with members surrendering themselves to a higher power – with almost sado-masochistic relish in some cases.

Silence and suppression of self killed socialism.

I’ve mentioned before that when I first read a version of it in the party journal I thought it hugely unconvincing, both in terms of its analysis and its proscriptions. Problems with Soviet style communism were hardly news in the late 1980s (or the late 1970s or 60s or 50s for that matter). But to argue that a leapfrog to a position near indistinguishable from the Labour Party was the answer seemed… odd. The party had already come to terms with the market, at least rhetorically. And the Workers’ Party wasn’t suffering any evident decline in support during this period on its then existing platform. If anything, quite the opposite (which made the machinations during 1990/91 as regards the later split near-incomprehensible to many).

Fine to point up problems with previous analyses. But… their then currency seemed a bit nebulous. And also a bit late in the day others might suggest, with some justification. But that was hardly the point. Here was the grand gesture, the ideological shift, the testament to their aching need to be relevant, not merely to the apparatus (of which they had once been a part) which was already arguably in decline but also to a party which had a new pole evolving in the shape of the elected representatives. Once they had been the only guys on the block. Now there were others with equal or greater power and influence.

It’s never wise to underestimate the need for relevance, in life, in culture and above all in politics. The ‘necessity’ for Social Democracy was a manifestation of just such a personal and political dynamic.

Comments»

1. Garibaldy - June 2, 2008

Thanks for posting this WBS. Like yourself I couldn’t be bothered going into it all, but I’m shocked at how incoherent, superficial, and repetitive it is. Just to pick up one or two representative points. He says that The WP should defend the separate unionist identity, and was under the misapprehension that that was what it had been doing in NI. Nothing about uniting the people, and abolishing those identities, and replacing them not so much with the common name of Irishman, but with their identity as working people. Clearly the gap between some of the people in Dublin in the late 1980s who seemed to think this was the case and party policy – and party action – was immense if they bought this line from Harris.

And like a lot of other Eurocommunists, no understanding of Gramsci either. To suggest that Gramsci was the forefather of his project was laughable. Hegemony for Gramsci was the leadership that the fundamental classes needed to build over the subaltern ones to achieve the revolutionary transformation of society. So the Jacobins representing the bourgeoisie and the French peasantry, and the Bolsheviks representing the proletariat and the Russian peasantry are the examples he gave, and the question he was interested in was how the PCI could transform the Italian rural masses, especially in the south, into a revolutionary force. Nothing about the primacy of the individual or the necessity for social democracy. Quite the opposite.

One point I will agree with Harris on is the necessity to pursue reforming activity with a revolutionary zeal. In fact, The WP emerged from exactly such a programme, with the turn to social and economic issues, and especially NICRA. NICRA’s demands were reformist, but in fact their implementation meant the overthrow of the regime as it existed by removing many of its props. In fact, Desi O’Hagan, who I imagine is one of the people who supposedly retreated into a prolix orthodoxy, recently gave a paper to the Party on exactly this point – the revolutionary potential of reforms.

The pamphlet is aimed at straw men. Provos and Trots (seemingly taken for the Irish Left along with Labour), and inflexible statists who fail to see the need to address immediate political situations. I think the track record of The WP demonstrated just how straw this particular man was.

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2. WorldbyStorm - June 2, 2008

I don’t think that they did buy the Harris line. And hence he left.

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3. Garibaldy - June 2, 2008

well indeed, but unfortunately he took some people with him.

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4. WorldbyStorm - June 2, 2008

Yeah, a pity about Smullen, although I never subscribed to all his views he was an interesting thinker.

Did I mention that I’d thought of scanning and posting the IIR, but found it so huge I gave up… I wonder if it will ever be available in digital form?

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5. Garibaldy - June 2, 2008

When Harris’ collected works are published by any and all means by a grateful nation perhaps 🙂

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6. WorldbyStorm - June 2, 2008

Speed the day 🙂 Or perhaps contributors and readers of the CLR could take a chunk of the IIR piece by piece… Nah, I wouldn’t inflict it on people…

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7. Garibaldy - June 2, 2008

You wouldn’t cut it apart and split it up would you? An historic document like that?

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8. CL - June 2, 2008

Koestler said it better in 1949.

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9. WorldbyStorm - June 2, 2008

I would too Garibaldy, and you’re not too wide of the mark CL.

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10. Garibaldy - June 2, 2008

I’m shocked at your blatant disregard for the sacred texts.

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11. WorldbyStorm - June 2, 2008

Sacred, perhaps, but very very long indeed. Still, never mind the quality… 🙂

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12. Garibaldy - June 2, 2008

It’s years since I read it. What is it, 100-odd pages? I remember the introduction steals Hobsbawm’s description of the Jacobin period as “iron and heroic”. Exproproation of intellectual property.

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13. WorldbyStorm - June 2, 2008

Communists! But yes, a bit shameless. Although par for the course.

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14. Garibaldy - June 2, 2008

Totally par for the course. And doesn’t lessen the impact of the document, but it was amusing as I read the IIR shortly after reading Hobsbawm. Still at least it was stealing from someone classy.

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15. yourcousin - June 3, 2008

Garibaldy,
But isn’t one of the problems with revolutionary reform is that (to put it bluntly) that it has a fence post up its ass? I mean it wants to upset the apple cart so that maybe a few of the apples topple off, but not too many. But how do you determine which apples fall off and which stay put while you’re rocking the cart back and forth? You cite the importance of the NICRA but as we saw it quickly turned into a situation where both the Officials and the SDLP had the tiger by the tail as the Provos merrily went about trying to tip the cart over entirely.

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16. Garibaldy - June 3, 2008

Yourcousin,

We shouldn’t downplay the importance of reforms – Harris is right that Marx and Engels saw political struggle and the expansion of democracy as central to the Communist programme. For example. the creation of the welfare state was revolutionary in many areas, and in the conditions of people’s lives, and just how far it was so has been demonstrated by the attacks upon it, and the pressure it is putting on ordinary people in terms the increasing demands on their pockets of healthcare, education, etc.

I think the situation around NICRA and civil rights in NI went the way it did because of the unionist response to perfectly reasonable demands. An understandable response though because the discrimination on which the state rested was fatally undermined by those demands. As for upsetting the apple cart, I see radical reforms as early steps, useful for increasing the rights of political rights and material conditions of people while building towards a more comprehensive and indeed revolutionary overhaul of society.
The aim is to improve the system, but still with the aim of overthrowing it. I think this is fundamentally different than the vision outlined here by Harris, which sees no alternative to the present system.

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17. yourcousin - June 3, 2008

Garibaldy,
Thanks for the clarification. I think it was the revolutionary zeal that confused me. Chomsky called it expanding the cage floor (I think he cited Brazilian workers for that phrase). I would tend to agree that reforms must be made before anything else. I have come into conflict with leftists who scoff at shop floor organizing and dealing with things as mundane as scheduling issues or harrassment from bosses but yet expect these same people to turn around and start a revolution. I suppose it is the way in which we proceed that differentiates whether or not the actions are revolutionary reform or simple systemically reinforcing reform (if that makes sense).

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18. Garibaldy - June 3, 2008

YourCousin,

I agree with what you’re saying. I think the type of attitude you outline where people are dismissive towards reforms is exactly why Lenin was right to diagnose an infantile disorder as a persistent tendency on the left. I like the word the French had during the Terror, the Exageres. I agree that there is a danger that reform can become the sole aim. I found it amusing actually that Harris cited the PCI as an example. A shining success their reorganisation was. That is why a clear ideological programme is a must, allied to flexible tactics.

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19. yourcousin - June 3, 2008

Garibaldy,
I’m not really a Leninist (though I’ve been accused of being such, amongst other names). I’m not really an “ist” kind of person at all because at the end of the day you can’t eat an ideology or take care of your family with a revolutionary tract, no matter inciteful one might feel that it is.

There are certainly writers and deeds from the past which inspire me, but their words while inspirational, are not nessecarily a road map for the way forward. Ethics and principles are (for me at least) better than all of the revolutionary rhetoric, because the the rhetoric is all about tapping into those ethics and feelings which we have already. And I guess this goes back to my original point, how can one have a program for life? I have seen how capitalists structure a solid third of my life (with me in it) into a cost code and job number, which is why safetly is important, because they’re self insured. We are codified into an abstraction. Something be taken off the spread sheet at the end of the fiscal year. I have been wondering of late if the left often times doesn’t do the same thing by trying to get workers and the world in which we live to conform to ideas espoused in different times, which even in those times might have been in error. Or as my friend does, bring it all back to economics, which is all very well and good, but is really just the same de-humanization practiced by the capitalists. I have no more desire than to have my life reduced to consumption and production by the forces of the left than I do by the system.

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20. Garibaldy - June 3, 2008

Had I said principled rather than ideological would that have been ok? The way I see it, socialism is not a series of set sacred texts. Rather writings from the past provide a framework for analysing and understanding society, but political tactics must be tailored to the present, and not the past. Clearly socialism in the future must take greater account of people’s desires beyond the workplace than it did in the eastern bloc.

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21. Jim Monaghan - June 3, 2008

The thing about Harris is his absolutist attitude to those who disagree with him.I always thought that the worst thing was not his ideas wgich change (and he has every right to change his mind) but his lack of toleration for those who differ.
To a degree he reflects the sectarianism of much of the left=, except that sometimes where there are armed groups it spills over into violence.
In the group I was in we had a major debate over the attempt to hang the Murrays. I argued for a civil liberties or reformist based campaign open to all who opposed capital punishment whatever their approach to the National question. The majority changed their mind and I think influenced the wider campaign to open out from a ghetto. This was in the time of the heavy gang where a seige mentality affected the Republican Left (for lack of a better description)
There is nothing wrong in reformism. In fact if it would work continously so much the better. I think it has limits but many fall for the trap that the system has no flexibility. if this was so there would be no contraception etc. in Ireland.
On a topical note antiwar activity does not mean taking a position for or against say the Iranian regime.It should be open to all who just oppose a military adventure.

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22. yourcousin - June 3, 2008

Garibaldy,
To be truthful if you had left out Lenin, then it have been okay. But you are of course more than welcome to be inspired by and believe whatever you would like. I apologize, I think there might be an issue of transference here from conversations I’ve been having with a coworker who has been expounding the arguments I railed against in my last post and so they were unduly at the front of my mind when reading your post.

But there is a distinction between principle and ideology, no?

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23. Joe - June 3, 2008

“I’ve mentioned before that when I first read a version of it in the party journal”

The party journal being Making Sense, WBS? If so, it was presented in a very tendentious way, iirc. Basically, it was set up in Making Sense to be knocked down and ridiculed – not ignoring the fact that it was asking for it but the way it was done showed that the other factions were in no mood to try to keep Harris et al on board, this was their chance to go for them and go for them they did.
Again, if I recall correctly, the whole way it was brought out and disseminated showed that the WP factions were waiting for the chance to jump on each other. My memory is that Harris and Smullen said that they asked for permission to issue it as a special issue of a periodical (“Class Politics”?) that their Industrial Section issued very rarely. Permission was refused by the CEC but they went ahead and issued it anyway and it got posted around to their mailing list of party activists, branch secretaries etc. At the next CEC meeting, Smullen’s membership of the CEC was taken away by a motion proposed by Garland and seconded by De Rossa (or vice versa) – the crime was going against the previous CEC decision.
All in all it was an exciting time in the Party. Harris wrote a piece (under an assumed name) in one of the Sundays about the moment of reckoning for the WP in which De Rossa and others were going to face down the student princes. He wished.
Smullen had this aura among a lot of genuine members that I knew. It was a very difficult time for them. Most stayed on in membership but I believe the way he was drummed out left a lasting impression and knocked the stuffing out of many of them. The words of Oliver Donahue of the Harris/Smullen faction at the subsequent Ard Fheis still resonate with me: “The treatment of Eamon Smullen will haunt this party.”
It was the only WP document my partner ever read and she giggled through it. She loved it, I think for the ripping to shreds therein of any fuzzy notion of the goodness of Eastern Bloc “socialism”.
Must read it again. Have to admit, I often find Harris entertaining.

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24. WorldbyStorm - June 3, 2008

Agreed. That said, the MS version was very short, but entirely tendentious? That’s not my recollection. Interesting isn’t it that the Garland and representative factions should combine on this? A lot of people were waiting in the long grass for just such a misstep.

I remember that aura you refer to. Very true.

Tell us what you think about it…

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25. Colm B - June 3, 2008

Joe outlines the later events of the NSD controversy but the key events were the behind the scenes manouvering of the Harris faction that occured before that. Harris believed that he could impose an ideological u-turn on the party from above (or from behind the curtains!) just as had been done with the Irish Industrial Revolution in the late 70s. His turn from economistic stalinism to right-wing social democracy was apparent from around 1988 when he indicated in a rather bizarre speech to WP members in Belfast (can anyone unearth that for the archive!). I dont think this was taken too seriously as his ideological influence on the party had waned by then. However, he did exert a huge influence on P. De Rossa during a fairly brief period from his election as party leader in 1989 until the open controversy over the NSD (early 1990). This was clear in De Rossa first speech as leader to the Ard Fheis when some elements of the right-turn were indicated i.e. ref. to ‘dole spongers’ etc, despite the fact that party members had never voted for such a turn. I know that Harris was in constant communication with De Rossa for the next few months urging him to press on with this swing to the right. During that period or Harris’s faction also began to circulate the NSD within the party.

Clearly the startegy was to impose the NSD/right turn on the party through a combination of influence on the party leader and stealthy circulation of the document until its acceptance became a fait accompli. This was all being done in advance of any open discussion and was premised on open discussion being preempted. All the manouvering and squabbling in the CEC re Making Sense etc. was the outcome this manouvering.

But the key mistake Harris made was to presume he was dealing with the same party as that which had accepted the imposition of the IIR. It was a much larger and more diverse party and the divisions (which had always existed) between ‘elite factions’ at the top of the party were much more open. Neither the ‘parliamentarians’ nor the ‘traditionalists’ had any love for Harris and for different reasons they opposed his gambit: the parl’s because they regarded him as a loose cannon and the trad’s cos they opposed his right-turn from an orthodox marxist/republican position. In fact on one thing Harris was partly right: the parl’s largely agreed with the political content of his message but did’nt like the messenger or more accurately his desire to be top-dog.

The fact is that both these factions knew what Harris and his numerically small faction were up to but they did not do much to confront it until they had to, probably because they feared a public bust up. I know this because I was involved with an effort by a small number of party members, mostly WPY, to challenge the NSD from a radical left position ( for my sins I was immediately categorised a Trotskyist and apparently also labeled as a ‘new Seamus Costello’, though I definitely did not merit that title from any perspective, positive or negative). We made a real effort to counter the Harris factions covert activity by writing a counter document, which was also published in Making Sense and by talking to party members mainly in Dublin to bring the struggle out into the open, to expose what was going on. I also heard rumours of a backlash in Belfast as well but Im not aware of the facts on that so someone else will have to fill us in on that. Though both leadership factions were hostile or suspicious of our radical position they did not prevent us because the days of clamping down on ‘factional’ activity were gone and they were happy enough to let a few minnows give Harris a hard time. Harris got this all wrong and though the Parl’s were behind us. In fact the ‘student princes’ had little time for our politics and my main memory of conversations with Eamon Gilmore from that time was him urging caution, wishing to avoid factional fighting that would effect the party in our constituency.

Lots more could be written about these events but time precludes! Just to note that I think the grouping around E. Smullen was different from Harris’s core faction and I do think ES was in some ways caught in the crossfire but thats a side story that would take a different thread no doubt

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26. WorldbyStorm - June 3, 2008

Colm, would you happen to have the counter document by any chance? Email me at worldbystorm AT eircom.net (AT being the @)… I’d really like to read it. Or if you have that copy of MS that would be great. As regards the side story, did EH and ES remain close after all this?

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27. bill - June 4, 2008

They did but ES died within a year if I recall correctly

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28. Colm B - June 4, 2008

Unfortunately WBS I gave away most of my personal ‘Left Archive’ a few years ago, including the relevant issue of Making Sense and my original copy of the article. Im sure we’ll be able to dig it up somewhere though, so I’ll ask around. It was written by Fearghal Ross and myself and it advoated a left turn based on what one might today, with hindsight, call left-Eurocommunism (personally I would advocate a politics substantially to the left of that position today but I think its fair to say it was on the far left of the WP at the time). A number of us later wrote a submission to the party committee that was devising a new constitution based on this documents position but our progress was blown out of the water by the split in 1992 where we took different sides (a few of us subsequently ended up in the ISN).

Regarding the grouping around ES and their relationship with Harris faction (the boundaries were blurred), it would take up a whole thread discussing its politics and activities. I think it is fair to say that they were found themselves in a very confused position: having advocated a very economistic state-socialist position for years and castigated others for being social democrats (including the continous struggle with Pat Mc Cartan in DNE. McCartan was indeed a social democrat but the NSD made him look like a radical leftist) they now found themselves defending a document that advocated the most right wing social democracy imaginable. The ‘revolutionary reformism’, ‘marxist fist in a social democratic glove’ rhetoric was deliberately used by Harris to reassure this grouping and also in the hope of winning over some of the traditionalist leadership. Others know more about this but I think most of these people drifted out of politics, a few stayed with the WP but very few tagged along with Harris as he zoomed off towards planet neo-con, not surprising really given that they were mostly solid trade union activists.

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29. John O'Neill - June 4, 2008

The collapse of the USSR was a devastating blow for many within the WP. It created an ideological ‘crisis’ internally and activated the social democratic element in the WP who were in control of Making Sense and were particularly interested in that publication becoming like ‘Marxism Today’ in both style and political content – moving from ‘Eurocommunism’ to reformism. Some saw the chance to move to the right and this document was the start of a number of upheavals that culminated in the birth of Democratic Left.
The document was a fundamentally dishonest attempt to convince the membership that the WP should ‘hide’ its socialism under a social democratic veil or as Harris said at the Buswells Hotel meeting be “a socialist hand in a social democratic glove”. I understood this to mean that the revolutionaries would control the leadership and act as the puppet master whilst the organisation would overtly be a reformist social democratic force. I think this was an attempt to make the transformation proposed more palatable older party members who had gone through the whole group A group B phase of the Party’s development but in essence I think it was flawed and Harris was trying to con people as he knew that if you are purely a publicly social democratic party, you will naturally attract social democrats and eventually the revolutionary content will fade away.
This document was hand delivered to a select few members homes. Not all members were given a copy and this was deemed factionalism, the ultimate sin in a democratic centralist organisation not because everyone didn’t get a copy but because the document wasn’t put out through the proper channels. I don’t recall previous editions of the ‘Wealth of the Nation’ but if there were previous editions then the accusation of factionalising was wrong. A friend has advised me that the Wealth of the Nation was an internal publication printed quarterly by and for members of the Industrial Department. It was used to inform members and promote ideas on economic policy with in the Industrial Department but I agree with Colm’s comment it was an attempt to shift the ideology of the WP and that isn’t what the publication was for.
At the time I agreed with the charge and believed the Party was right but now I think that was more to do with the content of the document than anything else. It should have been discussed and hopefully rejected by the membership. I was saddened by Eamonn Smullen’s departure but bewildered that he facilitated and actively endorsed such a flight from socialism. Smullen had devoted a large part of his life to the WP and soon after I was told he had passed away in Italy. I believe he made an enormous mistake and as a result his contribution to the WP was never given the recognition it deserved.

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30. Joe - June 4, 2008

“I remember that aura you refer to. Very true.

Tell us what you think about it…”

The aura around Smullen. I don’t know. I was very much on the outside looking in. My observation would be that a lot of long standing activists from Official SF/IRA days held Smullen in great esteem. He was the wise man in Head Office. I think as an activist at the time you had to have some belief that the WP had the answers about how to run Ireland as a socialist society. And I think a lot of activists believed Smullen had those answers – he knew his socialism, his Marxism, his Marxism-Leninism.
I never spoke to the man so this is, as I said, a view from the outside. I nearly got to talk to him when he was producing a document on local government in Dublin. A comrade who was involved asked me to give an input. But it never went anywhere. I remember McCartan saying to me at a meeting – “He won’t speak to you on the phone.” So my guess is that he played that sort of conspiratorial game with comrades who were his admirers – Eamon doesn’t talk on the phone cos the Branch or the CIA are listening, Eamon is involved in serious stuff that the capitalists won’t like.
I hope that doesn’t read like too much bullshit from someone who never met the man. He definitely had something. When he died, a comrade came in to tell me in the place where I was working and he was visibly upset.

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31. Colm B - June 4, 2008

I only spoke to ES a few times, he struck me as an amiable if somewhat eccentric person. His office was crammed with old newspapers which, from which apparently he gleaned ‘little known facts’! His idea of socialist economy was largely that of state control and he seemed enamoured of the modernisation/industrialisation model of the eastern block. (but then so were many others in the WP, including myself for a period!).

In relation to Harris I get the impression that ES was used well before the NSD episode. I was told by a number of people that it was Harris rather than Smullen who wrote the gist of the IIR and some sections have that clever clogs/ranter style about them. I would guess that ES and his circle gave Harris a working class aura that assisted in imposing his ideological hegemony in the party. However I would doubt whether they were just puppets of Harris, it would be interesting to hear an insiders view.

On the question that John raised re. Making Sense, I think it was a complex process. A number of those involved, especially Paddy Gillan, were indeed advocating some sort of eurocommunism or what we might call left-reformism today. I suspect De Rossa and Eric Byrne fell into this category for a time. I dont think they consciously saw it as a way of moving the party towards social democracy at that stage (1990-1992). On the other hand Rabitte, Gilmore etc., and many others who later formed DL, regarded themselves as pragmatists and had little time for any theorising. In practice they were social democrats but they just did’nt articulate that theoretically.

In hindsight I think this is why it was possible for people like myself to delude themselves into thinking that DL was going to be a new left/ red green party rather than just another social democratic formation: on paper it looked like that. Of course the ‘pragmatists’ didn’t care what it said on paper and as soon as the crunch issue of coalition came up they swatted the our tiny left-wing aside like a mosquito. What was interesting at that stage was that some prominent members who had given the impression that they were opposed to coalition suddenly went silent or changed sides, leaving exactly 16 DL members who voted against the coalition motion in 1994. Ah well, we live and learn, but I digress…

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32. WorldbyStorm - June 4, 2008

Interesting Colm. I’d more or less left DL by the time of coalition, but it certainly added to my disenchantment. I certainly know what you mean about delusion. I was fairly convinced that it was going to be a sort of democratic socialist formation – live and learn indeed.

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33. WorldbyStorm - June 4, 2008

If you do dig up that issue it would be great…

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34. Garibaldy - June 4, 2008

I am genuinely baffled by this as opposed to trying to be snide but I was wondering what Colm thought those who stayed loyal to what for the sake of shorthand we can call WP orthodoxy were if left Eurocommunism represented being on the far left of the party. I would have thought it meant a move rightwards. Or did people seriously think that the DLs were going to be more left than The WP?

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35. Colm B - June 5, 2008

Ok Garibaldy if you are interested in a serious discussion on this one I will try to give my personal perspective. While I respect your anonimity, its difficult to engage with someone who may or may not have been a member of the WP at the time, so it would probably be fair if you at least indicate if you were and your broad position in the struggles that occurred without giving away your identity.

The ‘left-eurocommunism’ was the best shorthand I could come up with for the position I held at the time (I stress that I would not use that term to characterise my current political position). I dont think this was the same as people like De Rossa, Byrne, Gillan etc. who (at that point) were just straightforward eurocommunists: parliamentary road to socialism but opposed to coalition etc. So yes I believe my position was to the left of the ‘traditional/orthodox’ section, the social democrats and the ‘eurocommunists’.

So lets look at the positions advocated by me at the time and by the loose ‘far left’ grouping that existed of mostly WPY/exWPY members. I dont have the relevant documents as I indicted to WBS but I’ll try to work from memory. In case there is any doubt about the fact that we advocted these views openly I can confirm that we made a written submission to the party consititution committee and issued a small journal called ‘Socialist Digest’ which reprinted articles from various international journals. Our main thrust was characteristed by the following.

1. The need for a grassroots campaigning party and opposition to electoralism (i.e.all activity being geared towards electoral success).
3. A long term goal of participatory socialism rather than just forming a socialist government through parliamentary majority.
4. Full democracy within the party and an end to the hidden factions/elite factions system that was termed democratic centralism
5. Opposition to coalition.
6. Opposition to links with ‘communist’ regimes especially North Korea (This view was not shared by all those involved)
7. Looking at the mass class based parties that were emerging then such as the WP in Brazil (long before Lula turned it into a neo-liberal machine) for inspiration rather than the orthodox CPs or social democratic parties of western Europe.

Now all of the above clearly put us to the left of the social democrats like Rabitte, Gilmore etc. but it also to the left of most of the traditionalists. Let me give two personal examples:

I had been a member of the party’s International Committee for a number of years. I had happily gone along with the pro-eastern block positions but from about 1987 I began to have doubts about this position. I was slow to make an issue of it but after visiting North Korea in 1989 I wrote a document which I gave to the Int. Sec. Sean O Cionnaith advocating that we break links with NK and build links with the indep. workers movement that had devloped in opposition to the capitalist dicatatorship in SK which was both anti-imperialist and anti-stalinist. I got no response but I was subsequently dropped from the International Committee. I was put back onto the Committee, I think a year later, but I found that when I opposed links with China, it was not just the ‘traditionalists’ who argued against this but also some of the social democrats as well ( I remember both Tomas Mc Giolla and John Gallagher arguing for maintaining links with the Chinese regime). So yes I certainly do think my position was to the left of both camps.

Another example was the Mary Robinson presidential campaign in 1991. A small number of party members opposed WP involvement in her campaign though as far as I know only John O Neill and myself openly refused to work in the campaign. My reasons were twofold: I did not believe that the party should support a bourgeois/liberal politician because I saw it as a step towards coalition. Secondly, this decision was foisted on the party by the fait accompli of De Rossa announcing our support in the media which pre-empted democratic debate in the party. Now, to my knowledge none of the ‘traditionalist’ leadership had any probs with either supporting MR or the way we came to support her, and in fact both John and I were attacked from all sides for breaching democratic centralism. At the time I had a long discussion a member who is still a prominent WP member in Dublin who argued that democratic centralism dictated that we should have accepted this decision and even if the party decided to enter coalition we should accept it on the basis same basis! On the other hand I had a hard time in Dun Laoghaire where the vast majority of members (most of whom went with DL later) enthusiastically supported MR and I regretfully lost a number of friends over the issue.

Now you may well disagree with the position I took on both issues but the point is that I think its fair to say that I was on the radical left of the party. I had an interesting conversation with two young members from Belfast who stayed at my flat around this time. When we talked about the various issues arising in the party they told me that a senior ‘traditionalist’ Belfast member had warned them that I was a Trotskyist because of my views on China etc. Now this would indicate that those from that wing of the party regarded me and others with similar views as ‘ultra-lefts’.

When the split began to loom in late 1992 those of us who you could loosely say held these ‘ultra-left’ positions did not act as a group because we were divided as to what approach to take:

1.Some just called it a day and did not join either side

2.Some decided to stay in the WP, I think its fair to say, on the basis that the parls/social democrats were by far the greater threat.

3. A number of us went with DL.

My reasons for going with DL were threefold:

A. That regardless of Rabitte etc. being social democrats the new party would be internally democratic and so it would be easier to organise and argue for radical left positions within DL.

B. I thought the ‘eurocommunists’ (De Rossa, Byrne etc.) were genuinely to the left of the social democrats (Rabbitte etc.) and that they were serious about creating a new red-green party that would not just be a mini-labour party. I also was convinced that despite the longings of Rabbitte etc. for cabinet seats that De Rossa was seriously opposed to coalition, a view that was strengthened by his statements on this issue right up until early 1994. I have to admit I was very surprised that so few of us opposed coalition in 1994. In fact in the end I think only around four or five of us resigned from DL at that point.

C. I felt the continued existance of Group B would make it impossible to work within the WP as it was a instrument in the hands of the ‘traditional’ leadership. By this I don’t mean a physical threat to opponents but an organisational tool within the party. I also believed that the existance of Group B left us with a serious credibilty problem, to say the least, with the working class.

I can honestly say that the decision I took at that stage was based on principle. Of course I acknowledge that many others who took different positions also acted out of principle (though like any party there was a fair share of opportunistic chancers as well!). With the benefit of hindsight, I would not have stayed in the WP but I made a mistake in joining DL. The best option would have been the formation of a radical new organistion but the work hadn’t been put in and the numbers did’nt exist so that is just wishful thinking. I know you probably won’t agree with my assessment of the split etc. but I hope it explains my own case: i.e holding views to the left of the ‘traditionalists’ but entering DL.

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36. Garibaldy - June 5, 2008

Thanks Colm. I was not a WP member at that time (age), but am one now. I was not connected to the party at that time so took no position but I do however remember some of the discussions that were going on that the time, and read some of the material from both sides.

I guess I was shocked by that statement for a number of reasons but looking at your explanation, I can see where you’re coming from. On the point about international links. I think this is mainly a difference of perspective. As it happens I was talking to a member of the international department from the period you are talking about last night, and he was saying that there were arguments put forward for The WP to issue statements condemning what some saw as violations of human rights by liberation movements like the ANC. I am not ascribing this position to yourself, but I think it probably represents a strand of thinking that culminated in the CEC decision to break links with “anti-democratic parties” (or whatever the phrase was) just before the split. I think that the argument that links should be broken with regimes like Cuba or the DPRK that have been long-term recipients of naked aggression in different forms is to miss the wood for the trees, and to allow a focus to develop on an agenda set by the neo-cons to deligitimise socialist struggle and socialist regimes. In other words, in the rush to condemn people for their democratic failings the bigger democratic point about the soverignty of peoples and the right to decide their own destiny is missed. In addition, I think it fails to take into account the concrete historical circumstances under which the societies or organisations were or are operating, and thus falls prey to something approaching an idealist instead of a materialist position, if that’s not too flowery a way of saying something simple. This can come from a shift to the right – as was the case with the leadership of DL or say the French CP today – but also from an ultra-left position I guess.

On the Mary Robinson issue, I can’t really say much. I’d be inclined to see that as an issue of tactical flexibility, just like the decision to bolster Haughey in 1981(?). These things should be judged according to the practical benefit to the overall socialist project and to the lives of working people. I can see how you decided upon your approach, but equally how it was seen as an ultra-leftist position.

I can honestly say I’ve never found The WP anything but democratic, and certainly not the overbearing beast that stifled debate that some people describe. In fact, I would say that looking at the party publications in the years leading to the split, that was definitely the case. In fact, I reckon that without democratic centralism – where it is the Ard Fheis that is the highest body – that De Rossa et al could have gotten their way instead of being forced to leave.

I guess point B is where there would be the greatest difference. I remember reading recruiting material from New Agenda, and it was clear to me even then what type of party it would be. The language was totally different to that of The WP. I’ve had this discussion with WBS as well, but looking at that, and re-reading Patterns of Betrayal recently, I think the DL trajectory was not only predictable but inevitable from day one (and was predicted at the time by the party). Point C I am more convinced than ever for the TDs was simply a red herring, to cover the retreat from socialism and to abandon the north.

I still find the idea that of breaking with a disciplined party with its sight set firmly on socialism in the hope of developing a stronger left within what was always going to be a social democratic formation a strange one, but more understandable after your response. I think though that some people were extremely naive regarding the intentions of the TDs, the nature of the new formation, and the damage that would be done to the interests of working class people by the loss of The WP as was. But what else could I be expected to say.

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37. Colm B - June 5, 2008

Difficulty here is that we are talking with the benefit of hindsight: if I knew then what I knew now etc. etc. I think the decision on my part to join DL was not naive, in the sense that I had a very clear idea of what the social democrats had in mind, but was based on a mistaken assessment of what the relative strength of forces within DL would be. I thought it might be possible to outmanouvre them or (more likely) form a strong left faction within DL. My decision was heavily influenced by an assessement arose of De Rossa’s politics based on the positions he advocated at the time of DL’s formation. The fact that he rapidly retreated from those positions when the prospect of government loomed in 1994 could not really have been anticipated from what he had said up until then. I thought that he would provide a strong counter weight that would at least keep the party out of coalition. His subsequent trajectory makes that look extremely naive but at the time it was a reasonable assessment based on the available evidence to me. While I was not close to De Rossa personally, I worked closely with his son Fearghal who shared my radical views at the time, so I had a fair idea of where De Rossa stood in that early period of DL.

As for the international questions, the tactics of national liberation movements was certainly not my gripe and I don’t think it was a major issue in the split debates debates at all. For the record from my current (revolutionary socialist) perspective I consider NK to one of the most anti-worker regimes on earth but that really is another debate altogether.

You raise a lot of points which bear much more disccussion including the nature of internal democracy in the WP, pre and post split, but again I supppose these are also subjects for separate threads. I think it is significant that these issues can be discussed in a reasonable manner as splits tend to leave a lasting legacy of bitterness. From my own point of view the greatest sense of betrayal, if thats the right word, I feel is not towards the social democrats whose politics I was quite aware of long before the split, but towards those in DL (not all of whom came from the WP) who gave the impression they were radicals and only showed their true colours when power beckoned…but if I get started on that I’ll go into rant mode and thankfully Cedar Lounge insists on a modicum of good behaviour so I’ll stop there.

BTW any news on that history of the WP? Is it still set to come out? If it is I want somebody to buy it for my Christmas present.

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38. Garibaldy - June 5, 2008

I wonder though is this all just hindsight? The WP contributions ot Patterns of Betrayal is clear on the issue of how the new formation would develop, and at one TD is quoted as trying to persuade others to join the Labour Party with him. As far as I am aware this line of argument formed part of the debate at the time. I have heard others say that De Rossa let them down badly, but again I wonder how realistic that assessement was given that there were clearly several TDs who had made their minds up to push for coalition. He had already shown in the arguments for the predominance of the parliamentary party that he might well act as a group with them.But fair enough, we take people as we find them. Might the problem have been for some an unwillingness to hear those arguments as they came from the other side?

As for the book, it is still set to come out, supposedly towards the end of this year I think.

As for bitterness, not having been among those who built The WP, saw their friends die to ensure its survival, and felt that things were being achieved to push Ireland along a different path, mine is liable to be less. More a sense of regret that what Mac Giolla rightly called the finest political organisation the Irish working class had ever had was destroyed. Still a lot of anger though, of course.

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39. John O'Neill - June 5, 2008

“I still find the idea that of breaking with a disciplined party with its sight set firmly on socialism in the hope of developing a stronger left within what was always going to be a social democratic formation a strange one”

the membership may have been disciplined party with their sights set firmly on socialism but from the discussion above anyone reading it can see there existed f*** a** discipline at leadership level.

Factions were banned unless you were on the Ard Comhairle. As for Frank Ross, all of the current WP leadership who were on the Ard Comhairle at that time. supported him to replace MacGiolla as Party President and they also instructed WP members to rescind a decision made to remove Pat McCartain as a candidate by members in DNE and did the same when Paddy Gallagher was deselected by members in Waterford.

Garland, MacGiolla, O Hagan etc. are, like the rest of us, prone to the odd error.

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40. Garibaldy - June 5, 2008

Of course mistakes were made, as people will acknowledge. And absolutely the TDs in particular refused to acknowledge party discipline. I would agree with you above that the collapse of the USSR and socialist states created a once in a lifetime crisis that meant that the usual problems that can come with elected representatives were magnified out of all proportion. I seriously doubt that nearly all of them would have decided to go at the same time without it, though there may have been some leakage eventually to the Labour Party, especially if there had been a coalition at some point in the future.
But it would probably not have wrought the organisational damage, or taken such a toll on numbers. On people like De Rossa, as someone I know put it, how could you think that people who had been in the party since they were children would do what they did.

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41. WorldbyStorm - June 5, 2008

I’d certainly agree with almost all that Colm says (hardly surprising since his position and trajectory through WP and DL pretty much was identical to my own), the predictive powers of POB are fine (although what more left wing group prophesises anything but the worst of their erstwhile comrades – few enough go further left), but sort of beside the point. The problem wasn’t that DL came into existence, but that it came on foot of clear disenchantment with the way the WP was structured – sufficient that almost two in three members were willing to go for a change. People weren’t duped or coerced into that disenchantment. It was very very real as anyone who had been in the party could attest. And the reasons? A secretive centre that thought it had the way the truth and the light when clearly then and now it didn’t, elements of a parliamentary faction who had a (or many) different way truth and a light. Splits within the membership right down to branch level as to what was best. The fall-out from the collapse of ‘existing socialism’. And it’s also important to note that this made the left a bit of a ferment of rapidly developing viewpoints as people tried to come to terms with it. Which probably explains how De Rossa could near simultaneously be a token of the centre (as I saw him act in the mid-1980s in DNE), a euro-communist, be influenced – a bit by EH – and then someone who ultimately went to DL… He wasn’t the only one. But some of us tried to stay as Red/Green, left euro-communists…

Nor is it possible to argue that the situation the WP found itself in post the split was purely the fault of the split. It didn’t help. But the party still retained a TD, councillors, etc. Indeed on paper it would arguably have been a larger formation across the island than today’s SP.

And while I entirely agree that the foundering of the WP was dismal, and wish it had been otherwise absolutely everyone involved was to blame and in that sense it was utterly predictable. Indeed, and as a slight counter argument, I’d suggest that while all may indeed be entirely democratic within the WP today, the reality of a much larger much more variegated party with the factions described above within it led to prodigious efforts to maintain control.

To my mind the Korean thing was a sideshow, although once more I’d agree with Colm. I really really find that hard to tolerate, and since there happen to be two Korea’s – one a fairly typical Asian liberalish democracy – it’s sort of hard to see the defence of national sovereignty as somehow excusing what has happened in the North. That was a disaster for working people – and did no good whatsoever to the WP. Indeed I find it odd that those who in the old days complained strenuously about the ‘old’ militarism, etc, would somehow find no contradiction in aligning with an avowedly militaristic totalitarianism.

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42. Garibaldy - June 5, 2008

I am sure the disenchantment was very real, and for the reasons you suggest. I don’t think that the discontent was magicked up from nothing by a few careerists. What I am inclined to think is that people with concerns that could and should have been addressed within the party were lied to, and persuaded to join an organisation by people at the top who had no desire to see through what they were claiming to build. I’ve heard people in the north say it. What WBS says about the need for control within a factionalised situation makes sense, as does the fact that everyone has to share the blame, but I would suggest that some acted much more cynically than others.

Of course the subsequent travails of the party are not all down to 1992, but the sense of disillusionment and betrayal wrecked a lot of people’s morale, and many never recovered from it. The financial implications were also severe. The worst problem was losing the seat by 50 votes or whatever it was, and with it credibility as a big party, access to significant funding streams and significantly in southern political culture, access to the media. Mistakes have been made since then. But rebuilding goes on too.

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43. WorldbyStorm - June 5, 2008

I don’t think they were lied to, or at least not quite in the way you suggest (though I would agree the situation in the North was near disgraceful). I joined a party – somewhat unwillingly because I didn’t think WP was a busted flush but simply because the status quo was untenable – because I thought it had potential, not that it was in and of itself the answer to my dreams. I knew there were different factions entering that party as there had been previously. I thought, like CB above, that DR had a viewpoint that he obviously moved away from. I thought there were more people in the party on the left than it turned out to be. I was amazed at how few of the membership had a quibble about coalition. And cynicism, surely, there was bags of that going around, but it was everywhere. There was a fair bit of optimism too, at least initially.

So, if anything I’d look at it as follows. The DL membership was actually broadly speaking less left wing than I’d assumed. Which means that the WP membership pre-1991, and the vast bulk of it at that, were equally less left wing than people thought.

And that tells me something about the reality as against the perception of political activity. Sure, the WP was very efficient, but that was overstated to a degree, and it was never quite the regimented army of lore. More like people bought into it, accepted much that otherwise they might have disagreed with, and when push came to shove made the break with remarkable ease and lack of soul-searching. Not all by any means, I had quite a lot of sleepless nights over it, but a fair few.

Gerry O’Quigley (who seems to have stopped writing which is a great shame) has some interesting thoughts on what it was like to be a moderniser over at:

http://iepolitics.typepad.com/iepolitics/2006/12/idealism_activi.html#more

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44. Garibaldy - June 5, 2008

I think that it is clear that a lot of people had been allowed to join The WP in the later 1980s and early 1990s who should never have been in it in the first place, who joined it not because they believed in its goals but because it was the biggest party to the left of Labour, and seemed like a good place to progress in. The party itself is at fault for allowing that to happen. Not for exercising too much control, but not enough, for want of a better way of putting it.

Cheers for the Gerry O’Quigley link, which whatever about the politics of it, is utterly patronising – “less subject to the usual influences of family, jobs and education.” Added to “For a long time I believed that the flaws that could be detected were due to a lack of political development, and to the intellectual poverty of the left in Ireland. In other words, they would disappear given time, especially If I and my like-minded comrades, steeped in Gramsci, Italian communism, western Marxism and the New Left Review, gave them a helping hand.”

Setting aside the ego and the patronising, a little less than honest in quoting one particular source as objective. I have to say, however, that I find the analysis of why the DL failed not unconvincing, particularly the reluctance of what he calls the notables to get involved in the hard graft of building a party. I think though his approach to those who refused to join Labour with DL is also patronising. They wanted to abandon politics. Well, not really in many cases.

By the by, It’s amusing to see someone sneer at others about their education and be so utterly poor in spelling, punctuation and grammar.

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45. WorldbyStorm - June 5, 2008

I can’t agree Garibaldy with the idea that people who joined in that period shouldn’t have. I don’t recall entry requirements being significantly less stringent than when I joined in the early 1980s. Indeed I don’t really recall a massive influx during that period at all, and even were there one this was still overseen by precisely the same people who had a strong control of the apparatus before, during and after.

Are you certain you’re reading the education reference correctly? My sense of it was in a political sense in other words that the semi-conspiratorial approach tended to push out other influences and tended to the self-referential and a limited number of references at that (which I’d argue was borne out by the future ideological development of WP)… but that could be incorrect on my part.

Incidentally I don’t ref it to say that Gerry viewpoint is beyond criticism. For example I have taken issue previously with the notion that the existence of a certain organisation was a surprise to anyone who cared to look very far. Sure Magill were covering it on a near monthly basis, but he does give a good sense of the factionalising and how there were many strands within the WP, particularly those who sit between say the orthodoxies of head office and the social democrats, and as you can see there would be a difference between his viewpoint and mine and Colms (and I’d also agree with you that there were good reasons for people in DL not to go to Labour in the end). I have another doc for the Left Archive which covers the ground as well in terms of analysis.

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46. Garibaldy - June 5, 2008

I understand that the people in charge of recruitment were the same. But as I said earlier, mistakes get made. Perhaps shouldn’t have been allowed to join is the wrong way to put it. More like it should have been made clear what party policy was through a better process of political education, so that there was no mistaking the party for a left social democratic entity. Which is what I fear it had become in some places.

I’m fairly certain I’m reading the reference correctly. What education means there is, I would say, a degree. The message I think is that the opponents were professional revolutionaries who had not benefited from the civilising influences of what “normal” people had, and so were stuck in the past. In the light of the second statement I quoted, I definitely think that that is what it means. John Lowry ridicules this as the idea that people were waiting for the password in Russian to seize the GPO in POB.

I didn’t think you were putting it up as a sign of approval, simply to add to the debate.

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47. WorldbyStorm - June 5, 2008

Grand. 🙂 I didn’t exactly think you did think that I thought that, if you know what I mean.

You could be right though re education and perhaps Gerry might like to qualify that… certainly I wouldn’t have thought that there was any dearth of education at any level or in any form (and I tend – like yourself – to be suspicious of those who see it as only invested in certain forms) inside the party, but I would argue that certain very narrow views and readings did on occasion predominate and perhaps led to too inflexible a position when flexibility was precisely what was needed to engage with and neutralise those who saw it as simply a social democratic formation. That said when one looks at the original document that sparked off this debate something very odd was going on when people like Smullen who did have a better than good handle (albeit his analyses weren’t necessarily bang on) on such matters put forward the chaos of the above proposals in TNSD.

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48. Garibaldy - June 5, 2008

Yeah I think the fact that Smullen – who retains the respect of everyone I’ve ever spoken to about him – put this out can only I think be explained in the context of the collapse of the socialist states, and the rapidly shifting ground that you talked about earlier. I think I mentioned this before, but there were those who thought very significant progress towards socialism might be made in their lifetimes, and then saw things shatter. I can only surmise that for a lot of people, that shattered expectation caused them to lose all faith in their previous guiding light.

As for inflexibility, I’m sure that happened, but sometimes necessary to avoid slipping all moorings.

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49. bill - June 6, 2008

Interesting to see the differing views on ‘Group B’ – G you say you support it – in what manner as a revolutionary force within the WP or a fundraising group? I think the underlying real story of DL, for all the talk of coalitions etc, is that they didn’t have a couple of pennies to rub together to fund their organisation so it was really going no where from the get go. You got a fund a party big time in our little Republic so maybe while people were going on about the niceties of DPRNK they should get real. And did the DLers not fell any gratitude towards men that put their lives on the line to fund their political project?

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50. WorldbyStorm - June 6, 2008

The Group B issue is problematic. On the one hand we see continual reference to the past and the (in some instances) very real sacrifices made by that entity in order to validate the present. Tricky, not least because retrospectively mapping motivations can be a dubious art, at best. On the other although the form of much of that heritage remained the actuality – a somewhat rhetorically revolutionary party operating on a pragmatic level as a broadly constitutional/reformist party couldn’t really buy into that in say the way PSF has vis their relationship with former PIRA members. The logic of a revolutionary position meant that prisoners etc couldn’t really be seen to have any particular cachet. Certainly all the years I was in the party there was almost next to nothing made of them, and that seems to be even more true today. So, it’s a funny one. The history is a validation and support for where the party finds itself, but you can’t mention the war even though it was the positioning in that war, particularly at the end which was the absolute USP of WP (incidentally, worth noting that in terms of duping etc, the rhetoric used by OSF in the 1970 to ceasefire period and up to the IRSP split might well be considered to be at least somewhat detached from the political project that was being attempted. I don’t think that’s duping, but a lot of those who joined then and left for other formations – and I know them personally – felt it was).

And that’s why bill, to my mind although your last question might seem on the face of it logical, it had no purchase on the minds of those who had been told time and again that those lives on the line were not a bad thing as such, but really not a necessary or important thing since the campaign was wound down and nothing was said about defensive actions. (incidentally, look at the reprint of the 1970s feud docs where no mention at all is made of actions a certain group took – nothing, nada).

I’m probably not phrasing this well, so apologies.

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51. Garibaldy - June 6, 2008

Bill,

I’m not sure how you drew that conclusion. I haven’t said anything about that issue, other than I think it was a red herring, used to distract from what was really going on, the abandonment of political principles in pursuit of personal advancement by majority of the TDs. I think in the light of all that has happened since that is undeniably the case, although others on here naturally disagree. I am a member of a political party that seeks to transform society in the interests of working people. I strongly believe, as the party does, that it is only through a disciplined political party engaged in open political work – and not through a movement, or a coalition, or a broad formation or anything else – that the interests of working people can be properly represented, and that ultimately the levers of power can be used to effect that transformation.

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52. John O'Neill - June 6, 2008

I agree with Garibaldi it was a red herring and prouncements by DeRossa on the subject were particularly sickening.

On the membership, I think there was a concerted effort by TD’s in some areas to keep new members away from the Party and some new members joined because of the work done by public representatives and were supporters of individual TDs rather than the Party. I seem to recall a decision in the late 80’s where new members classes was decentralised from the centre to local areas. I doubt if they were given in most areas after that. The Party’s very poor commitment to internal education for new members didn’t help either. Another mistake made was the electorial gains led the organisation to believe that all struggle was through the ballot box. Agitational work at grassroots level in working class areas disappeared and was replaced with the membership being glorified postmen and women for TD’s.

The other point I wanted to make was further to my last post. I know we all make mistakes, that wasn’t the point I meant to make. The likes of O’Hagan and Garland were telling members that these people couldn’t be ‘trusted’ politically but when members took action to remove them they were berated by the very same people and told to change their decision.

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53. Cruibín - June 7, 2008

Technically the title attribution is incorrect as the document was not published formally by the Workers’ Party. Smullen was head of the Industrial Affairst Committee which had its own occasional publication the Wealth of the Nation which he controlled. He published it under that subtitle and it was circulated to selected people, some of whom contribute to this blog, but not all members got it. It was not however and official publication of the party.

I didn’t get a copy by the way, I was a relative newcomer back then – and I’m still in the WP.

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54. The Left Archive: “Making Sense”, the Workers’ Party, 1990 « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - June 9, 2008

[…] on from the discussions last week here , and with reference to other supporting material […]

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55. Billy Gorman - July 8, 2008

Deleted… Sorry Billy, we and you don’t know that so best not to spread it around.

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56. The Irish Industrial Revolution by Eoghan Harris - Politics.ie - November 1, 2009

[…] Fintan O'Toole to describe Harris approvingly as the only political ideologue in the country). The Left Archive: “The Necessity of Social Democracy” by Eoghan Harris, Workers’ P… __________________ Smell my cheese, you […]

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57. Harris: I could have saved The WP « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - November 15, 2009

[…] the Labour Party once and for all. Why was this? All because Eoghan’s now hard-to-get The Necessity of Social Democracy (Eoghan mustn’t be a fan of the CLR) was suppressed by the Party, and Eamon Smullen […]

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