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The Dublin European Elections Promotional Material – Joe Higgins of the Socialist Party… Part 17 of a continuing series. June 3, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Dublin Central Local Election and By-Election Promotional Material.
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Here’s a punchy document from Joe Higgins whose chances seem considerably better today than they did last week. Fair dues to him and the SP. Nice work.

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1. CB - June 3, 2009

Joe Higgins speaking at fundraiser for his European election campaign

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2. WorldbyStorm - June 3, 2009

Thanks CB. Very handy…

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3. alastair - June 3, 2009

Joe gets bonus points for correct apostrophes, but then blows it through sloppy hyphenation. Luckily he can pull the Mr. Humphries doppleganger move out of the hat to save the day.

And whats with the typographic jiggery pokery on Lisbon Treaty II?

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4. Leveller on the Liffey - June 3, 2009

You may be correct, Alastair, but I don’t think voters will give two apostrophes about correct punctuation.

This has clear messages, is easy to read and is attractive.

Good job.

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5. alastair - June 3, 2009

No mention of the intention to jump out of the job in Europe at first opportunity though. In fact very little about the job he’s actually running for. But he wouldn’t be alone in that front.

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6. Bartholomew - June 3, 2009

I’ll be voting for Joe, but ‘the Green’s tax hikes’? Tut tut.

And Alistair, what’s with the absence of an apostrophe in ‘whats with the typographic jiggery pokery’? Tut tut tut.

Where’s ejh when you need him?

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7. Bartholomew - June 3, 2009

Sorry, Alastair. Oops.

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8. alastair - June 3, 2009

Tut tut tut.

I wouldn’t vote for myself anyway – so I’m an apostrophe slob.

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9. tomfoolery - June 3, 2009

I think two things make it effective.

Visually, it is not constrained by the grid: the black circle breaks out of the red box, the photos of him and of his poster, and the pull-quote box are all at a small angle to the vertical, and the film reel containing incidents from his career also break the strict grid, but none of these deviate so much that the underlying grid is lost. In other words, it doesn’t become a mess. It’s the best designed leaflet I’ve seen throughout this campaign — for both local and European elections.

Second, the text on his proposals and his achievements is both specific and broad ranging — much more concrete than the “long involvement in the community” lines that I have seen from other candidates.

(But he’s still not getting my no. 1)

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10. WorldbyStorm - June 3, 2009

That’s a pretty good analysis tomfoolery…

Ah, the Lisbon II problem… well spotted that man…

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11. Mark P - June 4, 2009

I honestly cannot understand how anyone who would claim to be on the left would even consider giving another candidate their first preference over Joe Higgins. This may reflect my prejudices of course, but I genuinely cannot comprehend such a thought process

(This is not addressed at anyone in particular in this thread, by the way)..

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12. WorldbyStorm - June 4, 2009

I think that reflects your prejudice ;)…

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13. Mark P - June 4, 2009

I thought it probably did.

I am serious though. I really can’t grasp how anyone who thinks of themselves as left wing could prefer to vote for ex-Fianna Failer McDonald, ex-a whole load of things and current pompous centrist De Rossa or even the basically decent and principled McKenna ahead of Higgins. It baffles me. There is no useful metric I can think of – left wing policies, personal integrity, consistency, even entertainment value – where I could imagine rating any of them ahead of him.

In fact I’d actually be interested in hearing from those supporters of other candidates who consider themselves left wing, to hear them explain why they prefer another candidate.

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14. Garibaldy - June 4, 2009

Surely De Rossa wins on the beard count.

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15. Mark P - June 4, 2009

I’ll (grudgingly) give him that.

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16. WorldbyStorm - June 4, 2009

Hmmmm…

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17. alastair - June 4, 2009

none of these deviate so much that the underlying grid is lost

There’s no grid used here at all.

There is no useful metric I can think of – left wing policies, personal integrity, consistency, even entertainment value – where I could imagine rating any of them ahead of him.

He’s opposed to Lisbon – which is my main problem with the guy running for this job, but he’s also clear that he’ll drop this job like a hot potato once the general election appears – so whatever his merits – there’s really no point in voting for a half-hearted job candidate. He also betrays his real interests and lack of engagement with the MEP role in his leaflet – it’s all about protest votes and domestic/Dail issues – I’d rather not vote for a proxy TD.

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18. Leveller on the Liffey - June 4, 2009

Mark P, do you really think you’re going to convince those of us on CLR to do other than what we’ve decided already by the day before polling? I wouldn’t think there’s too many floating voters here.

If anything – like PBP with their patronising, leftier-than-thou lectures – you might be in danger of losing Joe transfers.

Joe will be getting my No2 regardless. If Mary Lou doesn’t get it, I really do hope Joe does.

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19. sonofstan - June 4, 2009

I am serious though. I really can’t grasp how anyone who thinks of themselves as left wing could prefer to vote for ex-Fianna Failer McDonald, ex-a whole load of things and current pompous centrist De Rossa or even the basically decent and principled McKenna ahead of Higgins. It baffles me. There is no useful metric I can think of – left wing policies, personal integrity, consistency, even entertainment value – where I could imagine rating any of them ahead of him.

Possibly ‘a level of patronising condescension by the party involved’ metric?

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20. Mark P - June 4, 2009

I am under absolutely no illusion that I am going to win any “floating votes” amongst commenters or posters here. I would be surprised if any of the people who post here, including those who aren’t affiliated with any party, haven’t long ago made up their minds as to who they are voting for. I am quite genuinely interested in the reasons why some people who consider themselves left wing would be backing De Rossa, McDonald, McKenna or even De Burca. I have yet to see a left wing case made for most of them that doesn’t amount to “I’m in Party X and therefore I want the candidate of Party X to do well”.

Alastair makes the closest thing to a stab at it that I’ve seen, in that he actually makes a case for a De Rossa or De Burca. It isn’t a left wing case, more of an EU true believer’s case, but it is at least a case.

As for being “leftier than thou”, I have never made any bones about the fact that I don’t consider Sinn Fein, the Greens or Labour to be left wing in any meaningful sense. This hasn’t changed in the run up to these elections and is unlikely to change any time soon, unless those parties change their policies radically (or unless I get hit over the head). If anything my post is a little more conciliatory than I would normally be, in that it acknowledges that some people with genuinely left wing views or aspirations will vote for these parties.

It’s not “patronising” to ask why. Either there’s a left wing case for McDonald or De Rossa or whoever or there isn’t. Asking people to make one isn’t particularly outrageous behaviour.

By the way, even People Before Profit (who I hold no brief for) aren’t acting unreasonably when they criticise Sinn Fein or Labour from the left – they actually are to the left of those parties. Any discussion of their political differences with, say, an SF supporter will by its very nature tend to focus on issues where they are more radical and, therefore, SF are less radical. Nobody likes having the party they support criticised, but I don’t see why it’s particularly objectionable to criticise the likes of Labour or SF from the left.

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21. Der Tag - June 4, 2009

Question for Garibaldy or any other WP person: who do they recommend voting for in the Euros and why do they urge transfers to bacik in the Dublin Central rather than say Maureen O’Sullivan?

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22. anthony bosco oneill - June 4, 2009

Well Mark P I take your point,higgins is probably one of the only candidates running on the so called left that is worth voting for. Not a fan of Mary Lou but she will get my number 1 on the basis of party preference, higgins number 2 and thats where it will stop.

Personally i have no problem with anyone critising SF, rather enjoy reading some of the critique.

Interesting comment from Der tag, workers party calling for transfers to labour since malachy himself called for transfers to Burke on the VB show or was i hearing things.

Poor workers party falling back into the same trap as before with the same bunch of backstabbers from Democratic left, or labour, Sfwp ah just call him Eamonn 40 coats.

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23. Leveller on the Liffey - June 4, 2009

Mark P…

I don’t mind you asking but, as you’re as much set in your ways as I am, to be honest, I can’t be arsed making the case for you. I mean, what’s the point? I think SF is of the Left (maybe not as much in many ways as I would like); you don’t and I doubt you can be convinced otherwise. Why waste my time? I’m off to deliver election stuff. Good luck to you and Joe.

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24. Eamonn - June 4, 2009

Surely De Rossa wins on the beard count- Garabaldy

are you ruling out Mary Lou doing kartwheels?

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25. Bartholomew - June 4, 2009

‘Not a fan of Mary Lou but she will get my number 1 on the basis of party preference, higgins number 2 and thats where it will stop.’

Couldn’t you do your 1 and 2 and then go to Caroline Simons and mark her 12 (or however many it is) and work backwards. Voting against specific people and parties is one of the great features of STV. Our begrudging ancestors died for this right – use it!

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26. Tim Von Bondie - June 4, 2009

I hope Joe Higgins gets it; in a perfect world him, De Rossa and Mary Lou together, even though they wouldn’t get on.
The late surge for Joe has prevented the Shinners pulling off their last-ditch anti-SP jibe though. About five years ago when Joe Higgins was in contention with them for a Dail seat (or so they thought) the Phoenix ran a story on Militant’s old ‘federation of Ireland and Britain’ line. The aim to make Joe out to be some kind of west Brit-neo-Unionist. If it was clear three weeks ago that it would be Joe versus Mary Lou for the last seat you’d have heard it from SF by now.

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27. Dorothy B. - June 4, 2009

BOSCO,

I’m not even going to comment on a malachy apologist calling someone 40 coats.

I was wondering myself about the Workers Party new found support for the Labour party. I would be curious to hear the reasoning behind it.

I was also aware of Malachy not going along with this. My guess would be that his anti woman views are to the forefront, and that he has an issue with Bacik as she is a prominent pro-choice campaigner.

A male friend said to me recently that he felt if Malachy hadn’t already latched onto the Workers Party he would have been part of the Libertas campaign. Having seen the Libertas / COIR links discussed in a recent thread I can’t help but agree that this would be a much happier home for Dublin centrals own man of many coats.

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28. sonofstan - June 4, 2009

Mark P.

You write as if ‘left-ness’ was an observable, objective quality – could you set out what you mean and what your criteria are?

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29. NollaigO - June 4, 2009

…the Phoenix ran a story on Militant’s old ‘federation of Ireland and Britain’ line. The aim to make Joe out to be some kind of west Brit-neo-Unionist ,….

Was this a misrepresentation of the Militant/SP ?

Is Joe a republican ?

I never heard many calls for “Abolish the monarchy” from the UK Militant / SP especially when they are paper selling in East Belfast.

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30. Mark P - June 4, 2009

Some of the left nationalists here need to make their minds up about the Socialist Party in East Belfast. Just a couple of days ago we were being told that they didn’t do political work in Protestant areas because it was too dangerous. Now we’re being told that they do in fact do political work in Protestant areas, but they are insufficiently Republican about it. Maybe you lads should get together and get your story straight?

Joe is a Republican in the wider sense that he is opposed to Monarchy and also in the same sense as James Connolly, whose fundamental programme on the national question he shares – an independent socialist Ireland as part of a wider voluntary socialist federation. He is not a Republican in the Provisional Sinn Fein sense of the term, however.

Sonofstan:

“Left” is of course a relative term, and you could make a case that Fianna Fail is to the “left” of Fine Gael and Fine Gael was “left” of the old PDs, and in exactly the same way it’s fair enough to describe Labour or SF as to the “left” of Fianna Fail. They are all capitalist parties, dedicated to better managing capitalism within the confines allowed by the dominant neo-liberal paradigm, but some are more rabid than others. Sometimes the branding is different, but the substance differs only within very narrow limits.

When I talk about a party being “meaningfully left wing” however, I don’t mean that it brands itself as having a bit more of a social conscience than its substantially identical rivals (see under: Labour Party). I mean that, at an absolute minimum, it defends the interests of the working class, opposes privatisation in all circumstances, opposes making ordinary punters pay for the crisis, puts forward socialist solutions (preferably) or at the very least is willing to make arguments and proposals that are opposed to neo-liberalism. On that sort of definition, the left in Ireland is quite a bit smaller than some here like to wistfully imagine, but at least it represents an alternative rather than a rebranding of the status quo.

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31. WorldbyStorm - June 4, 2009

Mark P, that’s true to a point particularly from your perspective, but there are, as you know, many different ways even within your extremely tight definition of ‘left’to ‘defend the interests of the working class’, etc, etc. And even that begs questions as to what you mean by ‘working class’ and so on. My biggest problem isn’t the sincerity of your convictions, it’s that your analysis is utterly self-referential in that at the end of the day your definition, surprise surprise, winds up near identical with the… tah-dah! Socialist Party. Fancy that.

I also think it’s an unusual approach to politics, not least because by any measure such a limited left is not going to achieve state power in our lifetime or anything near it if current progress is to be judged. That’s fine too, I’ve always argued that the exemplary effect is vitally important. To lose the SP, WP, CPI, etc would be a disaster. But for most people beyond the confines of those formations or our broader ‘left’ debates they have at most tangential impact, and most likely will for the forseeable future – and again if not now during the deepest and most critical crisis of capitalism since the Great Depression, well, when?

Which means that it is hard for me at least to slag off those who gravitate to other formations, such as SF or Labour because they see things differently and perhaps seek tactics that might yield results in a shorter period of time. They may well be deluding themselves, but that’s not self-evidently so in every instance.

All that said JH will, of course, be getting a very high preference indeed from me…

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32. sonofstan - June 4, 2009

Mark P,

I wouldn’t argue with anything much on your list – I think Labour, in spirit, if not often explicitly, much more than a ‘substantially identical rival’ with a social conscience, but then I would say that being (usually) a Labour voter, and erstwhile member.

I guess what it comes down to is whether your prepared to ‘defend the interests of the working- class’ incrementally, within the ‘neo-liberal paradigm’ or whether you believe putting forward solutions outside that paradigm – with little chance of support – is actually a concrete defence: i don’t mean that as critically as it sounds: certainly, breaking the spell of said paradigm is part of the struggle. I guess it’s the old ‘mass party’ V vanguard question – i’ve never been happy with the latter option, especially if it becomes a game of ideological purism rather than a political engagement (again I’m not accusing you or the SP of the former).

It also comes down to a question of language and of, for want of a much better word, presentation: like it or not, the vocabulary of class struggle has as little purchase as the pre- Vatican II liturgy in Ireland now: people need to recognise themselves and their lives in the picture we paint: and, in an atomised, frictionless society, where work for many is a solitary, disconnected engagement with screen and a keyboard, where ‘community’ has been excavated, agitating, educating and organising has to happen differently – the problem with the left is that it’s lost it’s possession of modernity (or had….maybe now,…….)

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33. sonofstan - June 4, 2009

And I’ve lost my grip on apostrophes – ‘it’s lost its grip’

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34. Mark P - June 4, 2009

WorldbyStorm:

I don’t think that my definition of “meaningfully left wing” is identical or even nearly identical with the Socialist Party.

If we were having this discussion in the mid 1980s, a very substantial minority of the political spectrum would have met it. We’d be talking about the Workers Party, which had thousands of members, the left of the Labour Party, which was as large again, much of the rest of the Labour Party, as well as the revolutionary left and others. That this is no longer true constitutes a defeat, a major step backwards.

If we were having this discussion about Germany, rather than Ireland, organisations like the Left Party, which is thoroughly reformist and quite a long way from my views, would clearly meet the definition.

Even today however, the Socialist Party is very much a minority in what remains of the Irish left. I’ve no problem including for instance Patricia McKenna and the people around her and the remaining, largely politically unrepresented, reformist left under the title as well as the many and varied groups of the socialist left.

Sonofstan:

The problem is that, “defending the interests of the working class” within neo-liberalism is not possible. The dividing line I’m drawing isn’t between revolutionaries and left wing reformists, but between both of those groups on the one hand and neo-liberals on the other.

There are many organisations around the world which are not “vanguard parties” in any sense and which represent a kind of honest reformism, far from my politics but also far from those of the Irish Labour Party. Take the Left Party in Germany, or the PRC in Italy, or the Dutch Socialist Party as examples. These are organisations with politics essentially along the same lines as that of historical social democracy. Determinedly non-revolutionary, sure, but also positioning themselves well outside the neo-liberal consensus. Most of the descendents of the old social democratic parties are firmly within that consensus.

You can make a case for such organisations along the lines of your argument above about realistic methods and small steps and while I’d disagree with it, it would at least be an argument within a recognisable left. But that argument about methods doesn’t apply to the Irish Labour Party, which doesn’t share any of our goals. The people who instituted the tax amnesty or privatised TEAM Aer Lingus are our opponents, not people who we share common ground but tactical disagreements with.

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35. anthony bosco oneill - June 4, 2009

Wont even comment on Dorothy Bs apologist for malachy comment as i think she has a secret crush on him and there is nothing so bitter than unrequited love.

As for joe being a republican there is no doubt he is but not in the FF or SF sense. I beleive you can be a republican without being a socialist but you cant be a socialist without being a republican in the context of ireland anyway.

The more i listen to joe the more i admire the man and if there was ever someone who could lead and unify the left it is probably him.When the counting is done and the smoke and bullshit have cleared the real debate should be about forming a credible left opposition.

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36. Leveller on the Liffey - June 4, 2009

Tim Von Bondie: About five years ago when Joe Higgins was in contention with them for a Dail seat (or so they thought) the Phoenix ran a story on Militant’s old ‘federation of Ireland and Britain’ line. The aim to make Joe out to be some kind of west Brit-neo-Unionist. If it was clear three weeks ago that it would be Joe versus Mary Lou for the last seat you’d have heard it from SF by now.

Er, yeah, that line would have certainly swung thousands of Dubliners behind Mary Lou. I just can’t count the number of people who’ve said to me: “Sod socialism and the Lisbon Treay! What about Joe Higgins’s plan for a federal link with Britain? Bloody West Brit neo-unionist!” SF might even be printing an eve-of-poll leaflet on it as we speak.

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37. WorldbyStorm - June 4, 2009

MarkP, that explains again why you think the way you do, but it doesn’t strike me that you’re explaining why others think the way they do? I mean while I agree entirely that reformism ain’t what it used to be (although I wonder if there was an equivalent Left party in this state would you be quite so charitable to it as you propose 🙂 ), there’s another way of viewing these issues which is that the political centre of gravity has shifted a fair way to the right from as far back as the 1970s, particularly on purely economic issues of state ownership etc (although we might see a swing back now). Given that fact and given that societal sentiment followed it in large measure and that the left was locked out of this I don’t find it surprising, however unwise, that leftish parties tried to grab back some of a centre ground that was shifting rightwards. And that also meant the rise of contradictions for parties that sought to ameliorate however minimally the depradations of the right… in other words they had to almost arrive by stealth into power or by assuming some of the guise of the centre right. Again, a lot depends on how one views power, etc. That then in power parties like Labour in the UK and elsewhere then didn’t try to pull back is depressing, but not entirely unexpected, but then neither is the wish to do something, anything to minimise the negative effects of the right.

For me the thing about Labour is that it is so ambiguous in terms of its presentation, not just to the public at large (the will they won’t they enter government debate, the trimming over their policies, lower taxes in 07, higher now, etc, etc). It’s that they seem to carry this in part over to their own membership. And yet I can fully understand why it remains our largest centre left formation and why good socialists and social democrats remain in it, even if I wouldn’t.

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38. Mark P - June 4, 2009

WbS:

I don’t think that you have to do much wondering to work out what the Socialist Party’s attitude would be to an Irish equivalent of the Left Party or the PRC or the Dutch SP. Our sister organisations in all of those countries, and in other countries where there is a significant left reformist party in existence, form a current within those parties. They are typically very critical of some of the party’s policies but there is no question about whether or not such parties are part of the left as we understand it.

And yes, I agree with you that I’m explaining my own position more than trying to explain the positions of those I disagree with. That’s your job, and anyway, there’s no point in me putting words in other people’s mouths.

For what it’s worth, I understand the process through which most of the old reformist parties abandoned whatever remaining connections they had to class politics, socialism or the left in general as being just one notable component of a whole period of defeats for the left. The death of Stalinism, for all that those regimes were grim parodies of socialism, seriously set back the idea that any alternative was possible. Then you have a whole series of major industrial defeats internationally (or in Ireland, partnership which served much the same purpose), the Thatcher/Reagan onslaught on the gains of the 1970s and so on. The abandonment of the left, socialist aspirations and class politics by the social democratic parties was just one part of this process and both developed from and contributed to the general retreat.

This may mean that we are a bit lonely at the moment. But as many a bullied child could tell you refusing to recognise that you have few friends doesn’t make you more popular and hanging desperately around the bullies doesn’t make them go easier on you. It’s better to have a clear understanding of where we are and how far we are from our goals.

I don’t think that this is a permanent situation by any means and I think that over time the current crisis will contribute to a process of rebuilding by permanently breaking partnership. At the moment, people have reacted to the crisis by looking for the easiest apparent solution – and so the likes of FG and Lab are gaining not because they have any halfway coherent answers or even many important differences with the current regime, but because they are in place as the opposition. That’s not a roundabout way of implying that people are stupid by the way. It’s entirely rational to seek ready made solutions within the generally accepted paradigm before considering more radical options.

When an FG/Lab (or FG/SF!) government takes power though, it will continue to implement if not precisely the same policies then at the very least policies cut from the same cloth. And the savage cuts they will be forced to make will create further and more radical opposition. I don’t think that it’s inevitable that the Socialist Party will be the primary beneficiaries of that process or anything else so narcissistic, but I do think that it’s the task of the left to take significant steps towards reestablishing mass support for the idea that a progressive, democratic, socialist alternative is possible over the next period.

That will probably not simply mean the creation of a large revolutionary Marxist Party, but will instead be a messier process which will probably put actual reformism (as opposed to the sham version currently existing in Ireland) back on many people’s agenda too. Deluding ourselves that the “left” neo-liberal parties actually do represent an alternative will hinder rather than help that process.

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39. Omar Little - June 5, 2009

‘Er, yeah, that line would have certainly swung thousands of Dubliners behind Mary Lou. I just can’t count the number of people who’ve said to me: “Sod socialism and the Lisbon Treay! What about Joe Higgins’s plan for a federal link with Britain? Bloody West Brit neo-unionist!” SF might even be printing an eve-of-poll leaflet on it as we speak.’

Have a look at the Irish Times discussion thread on the elections…
If JH wins the seat you’ll see this allegation in The Phoenix. PP is like a dog with a bone…

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40. NollaigO - June 5, 2009

PP is like a dog with a bone… ,

But Mr Little never chews on anything.

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41. WorldbyStorm - June 5, 2009

Mark P, I think you’re still very slightly at a tangent to the point I’m trying to get across. People will make decisions for – say less socialist – options because they may see in those options something they more clearly identify with. For example, you may not think that a federal link with Britain is an issue, but for even the most socialist SF members, and many many more beyond it’s of considerable significance once they try to frame their political choices into activity or a vote. Or for someone on the Red/Green left the SP simply might not address their issues, anymore than SF or the Labour party did, in a satisfactory way and there they might even now go for the GP or Patricia McKenna.

All this is about perception, culture, etc, etc. And you even accept yourself that your sister parties in say the Left Party take viewpoints at odds with the Left party, Lisbon being a very good example of same where the Left party appears to be a lot more ameliorative. For some of us on the left (and I speak for myself here) while not a deal breaker a more engaged attitude to the EU is central. Again, that won’t stop me from giving JH a very high preference, or being delighted to see him in the parliament, but it does somewhat damp down my enthusiasm.

BTW, none of this is to slag off the SP. For many people on the left it will, equally, provide an excellent vehicle for their political leanings.

What I’m getting at is that there are many reasons why leftists and socialists will find themselves in any number of different homes and many of them will find them more or less equally congenial. They won’t for a second believe they’re deluding themselves. And truth is I’d bet most probably aren’t because they also will know that their choices involve compromises on one level or another.

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