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Left Archive: “Parting Company: Ending social partnership”, a pamphlet from the Irish Socialist Network, 2003 July 5, 2010

Posted by irishonlineleftarchive in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Irish Politics, Irish Socialist Network, The Left.

Many thanks to both John O’Neill for scanning this pamphlet and to Des Derwin for writing the following overview of the first piece of documentation in the Archive from the Irish Socialist Network. The ISN – which was founded in 2001 – is a democratic socialist group which while Marxist eschews Leninism. Many of those involved have come from a Workers’ Party background and the organisation has contested a number of local elections and been active in various campaigns.


Parting Company: Ending social partnership, a 2003 pamphlet from the Irish Socialist Network went a long way in one slim volume to decoding the matrix. From page one it goes for the jugular:

“The so-called Social Partnership system has held sway in the Republic of Ireland since 1987, much to the benefit, we are told, of workers. This myth has endured, at least partly, due to the failure by many, in both the trade union movement and the community sector, to subject the process to critical analysis. A careful analysis from a socialist perspective exposes the truth at the core of the process: that it is about maximising profit and exploiting labour. Partnership simply has not and cannot deliver for workers… We assert unashamedly that there can be no partnership between capital and labour, the exploiters and the exploited, the powerful and the marginalised.”

Parting Company provides the evidence too:

“Over the period of Social Partnership profits have increased much more rapidly than wages. The rate of return on capital has doubled since 1987, with the profit share of national income rising from 25.1 per cent in 1987 to…38 per cent [in 1998]… During the 1990s output per head almost doubled, while at the same time between 1985 and 1999 unit labour costs fell by about 20 per cent..”

A feature of Parting Company is that it devotes as much attention to the incorporation of ‘the community and voluntary sector’ as to the incorporation of the trade unions. In 2003 the Celtic Tiger was already giving way to an agenda of austerity, out of which social partnership was originally born in the 80s. The McSharry cuts of 1987 were echoed in the McCreevy cuts of 2003 and Sustaining Progress led away the trade unions in the chains of binding arbitration. The vaunted connection between partnership and prosperity has been exploded anew and tenfold by the 2008 crisis and the conversion once again of partnership from an instrument of restraint in boom to a tool of austerity in bust.

The Irish Socialist Network specialises in the production of a useful and, in recent times, attractively presented, series of pamphlets. In particular The Ideas of Karl Marx: A Beginner’s Guide, by Aindrias O’ Cathasaigh, also from 2003, should be on every left bookstall: in my view the best very short and simple but comprehensive introduction to the ideas of Marx available anywhere.

Des Derwin


1. Garibaldy - July 5, 2010

Couple of pages missing from that. But interesting stuff.


2. WorldbyStorm - July 5, 2010

File sorted and revised. Many thanks to John.


3. Garibaldy - July 5, 2010

Thanks to you both.


4. WorldbyStorm - July 5, 2010

No, thank you! 🙂


5. Budapestkick - July 5, 2010

I find the negative references to ‘parliamentary elite’ and ‘revolutionary vanguard’ at the end of the document quite interesting. Perhaps reflective of a negative experience of both the WP and Democratic Left?


WorldbyStorm - July 5, 2010



6. Budapestkick - July 5, 2010

Incidentally the fact they are a network is interesting. Do they see themselves as a party (I know they have ran candidates) or something else more akin to a propaganda group or some kind of left co-ordinating organisation?


WorldbyStorm - July 5, 2010

I’ve always felt it was the latter, but I suspect it’s also about having less centralised structures. I’m sure someone associated with the ISN could answer these better than I could.


7. Markets long memory - July 6, 2010

Is ISN related to ORM? Are are completly they different groups?


Budapestkick - July 6, 2010

Different groups entirely


8. John O'Neill - July 6, 2010

As no one else from the Irish Socialist Network has entered the debate I would say that there is nothing like experience to influence a persons outlook and yes, certainly in my case Buda has hit the nail on the head. We are a network as we believe that the last thing Ireland needs is another small left party, rather we need to lay foundations for a realignment of the left.

As to Mr Markets question, we are not ‘related’ to the ORM, however we have members who were in the Workers Party, the Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Alternative, the Irish Democratic Youth Movement, the Irish Republican Socialist Party, Official Republican Movement and no previous political involvement not that it makes any difference whatsoever.

When I was a member many in the WP came from different political backgrounds, a still senior member in Belfast was in the provo’s, many good members in Dublin were from the Socialist Party and a few of the people who joined the ORM with me are now back in the Workers Party, thats politics comrade.


9. Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen (und nicht so radikalen) Linken « Entdinglichung - July 22, 2010

[…] Review, Frühjahr 1973 * David Bleakley: Crisis in Ireland (1974) * Irish Socialist Network: Parting Company: Ending social partnership […]


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