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United Left Alliance formed. October 27, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.
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This was forwarded to me today… interesting and apparently true…

United Left Alliance formed.

At a meeting held in Dublin last Sunday, 24th October, involving the
People Before Profit Alliance, the Socialist Party, the Tipperary
Workers and Unemployed Group, and Cllr Declan Bree and his local group
in Sligo, a historic decision was taken to establish a left alliance
to contest the next general election and to take the first steps
towards a new, left, anti capitalist formation to represent working
people.

It is to be called the United Left Alliance. A strong, left wing, anti
capitalist and anti coalition with right wing parties, programme has
been agreed. This will be circulated as soon as a few small agreed
amendments are made. The alliance will be open to anyone who accepts
its basic programme and aims, but the aim is to attract as many
workers and young people as possible.

A leaflet from the alliance will be circulated at the Claiming our
Future event next Saturday. It will be officially launched at a major
rally to be held in Dublin on the Friday evening of November 26th,
preceded by press activity during that week. Rallies around the
country and in the Dublin Constituencies will be held in the new year.

It will initially have a register of supporters, a steering committee,
a website, a media group, and will hold open monthly meetings in all
the constituencies where it is fielding candidates for the general
election. At this stage 12/13 candidates are agreed, covering Dublin,
Cork, Limerick, Wexford, Tipperary South and Sligo, with a number of
other areas and candidates to be considered.

The aim is to get people elected to the next Dail, which is entirely
possible in a number of areas. It is hoped that a group of left TDs,
working together, and being the real opposition, probably to a Fine
Gael/Labour coalition, will be the focus for a campaigning alliance
and lay the basis over time for a move to a more formal structure, in
reality, a new party for working people, union, community, feminist
and environmental activists, students and anyone who wants to affect
real change. In the situation now facing the country, such a party
could grow rapidly, supplanting Labour and Sinn Fein, and providing a
real alternative to Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.

Comments»

1. Pope Epopt - October 27, 2010

Sounds like fun!

And a nice geographical spread too.

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2. Niall - October 27, 2010

Last Sunday? Well, the first split will have happened already then.

Maybe I’m being a little mean, but you have to love the phrase “workers and young people”. What the hell is that supposed to mean? Young people don’t work? Who, exactly, isn’t a worker in their opinion?

And their goal is to supplant Labour and Sinn Fein? Because that’s what the country needs – a coalition of left-leaning individuals to argue with the slightly less left-leaning parties of the country.

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Mark P - October 27, 2010

Niall, I’m a little baffled by the idea that a regular reader of this site could somehow have failed to notice that Marxists seek to build a political movement of the working class. As for what Marxists mean by working class, it’s a little more complex than that, but centrally it means anyone who has to sell their labour to get by.

As for “slightly less left-leaning”, I think you are somewhat confused. Labour are fully committed to implementing neo-liberal austerity in government and SF have been running a government in the North along those lines for quite some time. There is considerably less of a gap between the old PDs and the Labour Party than there is between Labour and SF and the socialist left.

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WorldbyStorm - October 27, 2010

I always think though that SF can point to the sui generis nature of the political context in the North as in part explaining the sort of compromises they’ve had to make. They could of course sit outside the dispensation but in the broader context would that be sensible or wise?

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Mark P - October 27, 2010

Yes of course they can point to it. And then we can point to their actions on local councils in the North and the South. And their vote for the Bank Guarantee – where they lined up with all of the other right wing parties in destroying this country’s economy.

But even looking at the North alone for a moment, even from the point of view of a partisan of the coalition there, does being in coalition really require Martin McGuinness to actually hail PPP/PFI schemes as providing an innovative and good value way of providing infrastructure? Did SF really have to vote to give local councils the right to sell off every last council service? Or would it be more accurate to say that they’ve gone native and are entirely comfortable with this sort of politics?

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WorldbyStorm - October 27, 2010

That’s true, I agree that on many issues they’re all over the shop, and I think it would be possible to take a more pointed approach to PPIs etc. On the other hand their programme is more closely identifiable as what might be termed social democratic than any other mainstream party.

Re the Bank Guarantee they’ve IIRC recanted, and I’m sure you wouldn’t suggest the LP was somehow okay simply cause it voted agin it….

Of course if you’re correct that they’ve gone native then truth is there wouldn’t seem to be any scope for left of centre – even social democratic politics in this state, or on the island given the disposition of forces. And I find that unlikely.

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Mark P - October 27, 2010

In much the same way that I wouldn’t say that someone was ok merely because they didn’t stab me on one particular occasion.

As for SF’s recantation: Bit late now.

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Niall - October 29, 2010

Mark, the term workers isn’t exactly informative, especially when placed in a context where they seem to suggest that “young people” are not “workers”. it’s nitpicking on my part. I guess what I find most remarkable about the statement is that it’s exactly what you’d expect. It’s the same old rhetoric and they seem to be making the same old mistakes.

The Labour party’s support for idiotic austerity measures comes from a tendency on their part to believe that they must reach an alliance with some other party if they want to have influence. It’s a self fulfililng prophecy in many senses. They seem to underestimate the appeal that leftist policies can have to the Irish public, so they don’t put effort into promoting them and as a consequence, policies and approaches that are debated and considered by the mainstream in other countries are ignored here. The message they give the public is that “left” policies are unrealistic.

This new alliance seems to have the opposite problem. They will only ever have appeal to a minority. By marking Sinn Fein and the LP as enemies they seem to reject out of hand the possibility of any sort of alliance with these parties. They seem to wish to attract disillusioned LP and SF voters, which is fine in itself, but doing so does not in any way expand the appeal of the left to the wider public, or its influence in the Dail. It fractures the left vote, which need not be such a terrible thing in itself, but even if every candidate this group had were to be elected, they would probably still be unable to gain power without allying themselves with others.

In the current environment, there is a real opportunity for the Left to finally establish itself in the mainstream. We are suffering because of blind adherence to a right wing ideology, and people can now see for themselves that the emperor has no clothes. If left wing candidates are willing to ditch the jargon and start promoting their policies using plain simple language, then they increase their levels of success. They need to stop defining themselves in opposition to others because doing so just seems to attract a protest vote.

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Mark P - October 29, 2010

You see Niall, my problem with the above is that on the one hand you recognise that Labour is a party fully committed to “idiotic austerity measures”, but on the other hand you insist that it’s part of the left and see an advance for Labour as being a step forward for the left.

As far as I’m concerned, they are indeed fully committed to idiotic austerity measures, and they are committed to those measures because they are, right down to the core, a business as usual capitalist party. I don’t see a big vote for Labour as an advance for the left any more than I see a big vote for Fine Gael as an advance for the left.

Circumlimina’s description of the Labour Party as “the Pink PDs” hits the nail on the head. There is little essential difference between the PDs and Labour beyond the branding – a Mae Sexton recently demonstrated by moving from one to the other without changing her fundamental politics.

From my point of view, the socialist left is in the process of starting to build a left wing vote rather than cannibalising an existing one.

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3. coc - October 27, 2010

I wonder is there any significance in the fact that PBPA rather than SWP are listed as attendees?

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Mark P - October 27, 2010

PBPA does include some other people. Presumably the SWP prefer to negotiate as PBPA, along with those other people, rather than to negotiate separately from Joan Collins and the independents around her. You will note also the emphasis in this PBPA document on keeping the PBPA intact.

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LeftAtTheCross - October 27, 2010

On PBPA emphasising their continuing separate identity, presumably the SP won’t be disappearing overnight either?

What’s the SP line generally on this alliance?

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Mark P - October 27, 2010

The Socialist Party won’t be dissolving inside a new formation.

Our longer term perspective is that we will be one organised strand of opinion within a much broader working class party. Alliances with the existing left are seen as potentially being a step towards such a party.

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4. Mark P - October 27, 2010

This will be circulated as soon as a few small agreed
amendments are made

More broadly, this is unfortunately a bit of a habit of the PBPA – releasing things publically before all of the details have been nailed down.

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LeftAtTheCross - October 27, 2010

Hopefully not a re-run of the previous failed attempt at unity then (http://www.indymedia.ie/article/93769/).

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Budapestkick - October 27, 2010

See Chris O’Leary affair.

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5. WorldbyStorm - October 27, 2010

I should add that I had a few qualms about posting this up and posted it and then pulled it once until I found I had three emails from separate people with precisely this text forwarded to me. I figured that if it was that broadly disseminated then why not?

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Mark P - October 27, 2010

I’m not blaming you WbS, or Jim who posted it as a comment. And it’s up on other blogs too now.

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WorldbyStorm - October 27, 2010

Ah, no I didn’t think you were, but I did want people to understand my thinking here. I’m not a huge fan of ‘breaking news’ if you know what I mean but when stuff hits critical mass there’s little point in not posting it (though that can be self-fulfilling).

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6. sonofstan - October 27, 2010

Just asking…. (Mark, I suppose, in particular)

What do you all hope to gain from this alliance? By my reckoning, there’s maybe seven seats in play come the GE – three for the SP, two for PbPA, plus Healy and Bree. That’s, obviously, on a very good day indeed: on a very bad day, there’s probably only one sure thing.

Thing is, none of these people are contesting each other, so there’s no need for a voting pact, and all of the likely candidates will, effectively, be independents, in terms of how they run their campaigns and in how voters view them. So, if people already vote much more for ‘Joe Higgins’ or ‘RBB’ rather than identify themselves as SP or PbPA, how will the Alliance label on top of that help?

Or is there more to this Alliance than simply electoral politics? Genuine question: I mean will this mean more concerted attempts at coordination on the ground?

If it is as a stepping stone to a new party, then fair enough, and good luck (sincerely), but my guess is that it fits the model of a disjunctive consensus – where different group agree to the same thing ‘for the present’ in pursuit of ultimately different aims: the NI executive being a local example.

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7. Mark P - October 27, 2010

SoS:

Firstly, you are quite right that this sort of alliance won’t have an enormous impact on the chances of any of the 7 candidates who might conceivably be in with some sort of shout at a Dail seat. In fact that’s something the Socialist Party has had to emphasise a lot in recent years to people who do seem to think that “unity” has a magic effect.

However, such an alliance would potentially help less prominent candidates to get a bit of extra publicity and credibility and more importantly would allow the left to present something sort of akin to a national challenge.

The idea is to try and form what you could call a “pole of attraction” for people not currently involved in left organisations.

More generally, I think this fits in with the approach the Socialist Party has been trying to take when individual issues and campaigns arise of convening meetings of left activist groups, trade unionists, community groups etc to see what common ground there is. The idea being to avoid the kind of moronic identical competing campaigns incidents that have sometimes come up in the past.

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8. EWI - October 27, 2010

Hey, have they switched April Fool’s Day to another part of the year…?

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Dr. X - October 27, 2010

A Left Alliance that includes an SWP front group.

What could possibly go wrong?

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EWI - October 27, 2010

What could possibly go wrong?

Yep.

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9. HalleULA « Circumlimina - October 27, 2010

[…] yourselves over to CLR (although if anyone comes here before going there, you really need to have a word with yourselves) […]

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10. eamonndublin - October 27, 2010

Did the SP not rule out a left voting alliance because of the prospect of ‘no hope’ left candidated being put up by other groups. Did they not say they only wanted ‘serious’ left candidates and yet here we have the SP supporting 13 whereas only about 5 have any outside chance. Also, what about the Workers Party and Eirigi? Are they involved? Best wishes on the publicity drive and can’t wait for Richie BB to become ‘unofficial spokesperson’ and ‘leading light’. Also, Joan Collins/Dermot Connolly and the SP. Good bit of history there.

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Luxemburg - October 27, 2010

In fairness to the SP they wanted all candidates to be discussed and agreed by consensus, a good thing. The SP ran something like 12 candidates in the last local elections themselves. What they called for was candidates with a credible record and respect in the given community etc, maybe they got what thy wanted.
Agree that the WP are missing along with the ISN.
Overall seems like a positive step in the right direction. Let’s not count our chickens just yet though.

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11. Local Yokel - October 27, 2010

Who called the group together. Did they invite groups such as the WP and ISN? Not from what I’ve been hearing.

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Mark P - October 27, 2010

As I understand it, the initial discussion have been between a limited number of groups and individuals. Realistically speaking, these groups account for a large majority of the stronger candidates the left will be in a position to stand.

If something solid emerges it will no doubt seek to include wider forces.

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eamonndublin - October 28, 2010

Yeah, the ISN have had a candidate running out in Ballymun. He should be included.

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12. anon anon - October 27, 2010

An alliance of the Left should be an alliance of the left. Already there’s an exclusionary principle at work. People from X party, deemed not sufficiently left enough, need not become involved because their party isn’t Left enough.

This world’s fucked up, and getting fuckier-upped by the day.

If people, groups, or indeed groups within groups, share a general concern about eradicating Capitalism, they need to be engaged at all levels, at all places, all the time.

When a Left alliance forms that has only one stated general principle: the creation of an economy that recognises and requires the equal input of every citizen and that those citizens receive, in turn, a fair share of sensible output leading to a general economic well-being of those in the social economy then I’ll believe the left has a fighting chance – or at least the beginning of a chance to fight.

Feudal Capitalism’s a bleak prospect. Was Maggie right – there’s no alternative?

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Mark P - October 27, 2010

This, with all due respect, is complete nonsense.

Being in favour of “a fair share” for every citizen isn’t enough of a shared basis for a common political party. Firstly, what exactly “a fair share” means is a complex one and secondly, there a whole host of other issues which matter. Politics can’t be reduced to that.

At the moment the left is small and quite divided. It makes perfect sense for elements of the left who think they can work together to get together and discuss whether or not they can in fact work together. If those groups and individuals can come to an agreement that’s a good thing. They may or may not then be able to come to an agreement with other forces – if they can, so much the better.

There’s nothing inherently “exclusionary” about that.

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anon anon - October 28, 2010

With all due respect, it’s not nonsense.

Maybe, possibly hopefully, this alliance may lead to bigger and better things. Maybe others will forego their own agendas and hop on board. Fair dues to those who are trying.

Being longer’ish (quite ish) in the tooth, I’ve seen and heard these proposals before. All too often, when a grouping or alliance forms on the left, its veers off tangent.

The enemy’s facade it falling majestically and a broad alliance is welcome, although the broadest alliance of citizenry would be more welcome.

As for a fair society. Yeah, it’s a complex issue, but broadly it needn’t be. Ordinary folk need to be given information and most, barring the enabling middle management types, would like to hear a bit more about how fairness will be brought into society. Around here quite a few people are starting to use the term these days. It’s a concept gaining a fair bit of traction, even if everyone doesn’t have the same notion of fairness.

Exclusionary wasn’t a good word to use on my part. Maybe non-inclusive or an lacking the “open-parlour” stance would have been better.

As the local saying goes: you start off as you mean to go.

Anyway, the best of luck and success.

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13. HAL - October 28, 2010

“The alliance will be open to anyone who accepts
its basic programme and aims”
Do you have to be a trot.?

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Mark P - October 28, 2010

One would have to assume not, unless Declan Bree has had a rather surprising political transformation.

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14. AlexP - October 28, 2010

No but I would imagine it helps – and why not it seems very strange that two political formations such as the SP and SWP expect to build a broad front when they can’t agree. It’s good to see progress to joint action among these groups – with others.
Currently there are three varieties of Official Republican formation – the WP, ISN and ORM
Then two other ‘republican-socialist’, ‘socialist-republican’ groups – Eirigi, IRSP
Then we have Left republicans in Sinn Fein and Labour –
And the very active WSM
I unity of purpose between these groups is a serious left force – so this step closer but one grouping has to be positive

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15. AlexP - October 28, 2010

‘but’ should be ‘by’

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16. Wednesday - October 28, 2010

Re the Bank Guarantee they’ve IIRC recanted

To be clear about it, there were two votes a few months apart. The first was to authorise the government to come up with a bank guarantee scheme and the second was actually on the bank guarantee scheme, after the details of it were finalised.

SF voted yes on the first vote – a decision that a lot of us were not happy with, but it was made on foot of an emergency briefing given to the opposition finance spokespersons which involved (a) dire warnings of immediate and devastating consequences for ordinary folks with Anglo mortgages, and (b) a promise that certain conditions that both Labour and SF demanded would be included in the actual scheme. Of course they ended up not being included in the actual scheme – which SF consequently voted against.

Obviously the first decision was both wrong and stupid, for a number of reasons, but that’s how it happened. They said before the bill on the final scheme was published that they would vote against it if certain conditions weren’t included, so it wasn’t really “recanting” when they did vote against it, although I can’t say I blame people for thinking that.

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que - October 28, 2010

that message got out very late in the day Wednesday – about voting no to the gurantee. Its really only been over the last month or two that i have seen anyone getting that message out on the net. I think maybe SF slipped up on clarifying this one.

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Blissett - October 28, 2010

I agree with you there, poorly communicated, and a mistake surely, but not the cardinal one that is portrayed in some circles. I would note that generally speaking the SF Leinster house team has been excellent on economic issues over the last period.

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17. Jim Monaghan - October 28, 2010

This is a first step. A welcome one. I don’t see a huge breakthrough. But at least we are talking about mounting a challenge to tweedleedee/dum. I hope that it will prove bigger than the parts and will create some momentum. With momentum it will be harder for sectarian tendencies and manouvring to prevail. Elections are when and where real people think of politics. With this they will have the opportunity to see and debate socialist alternatives. I see this as a 100 times more important than all the little marchs.Bringing our shared socialist approach to the doorstep.This has the potential to change the left as well as the electorate, learning to talk to and engage with the mass of working people. Building on the breakthroiugh already achieved by Joe H and the left councillors.In spite of a lot of disagreements I would like to see the WP and CP involved. Is there anyone else.
Congrats. to all concerned.

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Budapestkick - October 28, 2010

So will you be getting involved Jim?

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Paul - October 28, 2010

What about the IRSP and éirígí Jim? Were they invited to be involved in this?

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18. Jim Monaghan - October 28, 2010

Of course. It is for me the only real show in town.
I will gladly canvass for Boyd Barrett. I would do the same for Joe. H as well.
Oh I don’t see a problem with integrating protests like the 1% and the “jail the bankers etc. who are responsible”.
At my age I have no leadership or other ambitions.
For a parallel discussion
http://liammacuaid.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/united-left-alliance-formed-in-ireland/

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19. Blissett - October 28, 2010

While I imagine this would be seen as advantageous by those groups in the long term, and they may well be right, I imagine it will have scant effect on the actual election. None of those groups are in competition with each other in any constituency I can think of, im struggling to think of anywhere more than one of these groups candidates are even standing. None of which is to say they wont take seats, but they will take seats where they would have taken seats anyway, and it will be spun as a victory for the Alliance. Collins Higgins Healy and Barrett should all be in contention, and of those I think Higgins and Collins will take seats, though I would be very pleased for seamus healy to take a seat. I dont see Bree being competitive. This may have been of more utility ahead of 09 elections though, but im only thinking in purely electoral terms, im sure this will have an effect on morale sense of purpose etc.
I dont see it lasting though, without the SWP making a hames of it. As for RBB, i would personally be very suspicious of him if I were a trot, I wouldn be stunned to see him doing a De Rossa on it in years to come. I may of course be wrong.

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Mark P - October 28, 2010

1) Yes, you are entirely correct that this probably won’t have a big direct impact on the chances of the main left candidates.

It’s worth noting though that it will probably boost numbers of canvassers for them. This sort of thing does always attract enthusiasm from a certain amount of independent types, who will come out for a “left unity” candidate. It’s not necessarily a huge deal, but every little helps.

2) Some dead bearded Russian once pointed out that nobody has yet invented a sincerometer. Nobody can know with any degree of certainty where another individual will end up in 10 or 20 years. For what it’s worth though, Boyd Barrett has never given me any reason to believe that he’s anything other than sincere in his adherence to the SWP. If he was just out for a career in electoral politics, he’d hardly have become an SWP fulltimer in the first place.

3) Well, yes, that the SWP “making a hames of it” is a possibility that likely occurs to anyone who has had prolonged contact with them. You work with the allies available to you though, unless you’ve somehow come up with a way to will better ones into existence.

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Blissett - October 28, 2010

2) Thats a fair point, perhaps I am guilty of inverse snobbery, and am unfairly casting aspersions on him nonetheless, I have my doubts

3) Quite so..

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eamonndublin - October 29, 2010

I think the recent interview with Rory Aherne in the IT shows a concern for the intentions of RBB. If Aherne, who was one of the golden boys of the SWM/PBP and was being touted in my area as a possible future Councillor before his recent conversion into Labour politics which was no doubt helped by his current employer. Carpetbaggers is the term I would use. However, RBB may prefer to stay a big fish in a small pond rather that the opposite. We can only hope that the expected in-fighting does not turn off possible voters. At present, only Higgins, Collins, Daly, Healy and possibly RBB have any chance. This is because, with the exception of RBB, they are all known locally as hard workers and not as part of a ULA. Petty squabbling will only harm their chances.

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Jim Monaghan - October 29, 2010

“with the exception of RBB, they are all known locally as hard workers ”
I am not uncritical of RBB but this is a tad unfair. There is very little in DL/Rathdown that does not involve RBB and the other PbP councillor. I don’t know where he gets his energy. On a footnote he should give up smoking, it will get him in the end.

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20. Budapestkick - October 28, 2010

I’d actually be more concerned about Declan Bree. He strikes me as highly opportunistic. I can’t say I agree with the points about Boyd Barret. As wary as I am about the SWP’s orientation, there’s nothing about him that screams careerist or anything. On the contrary, he comes across quite well in interviews and so on.

Btw, are the Irish Socialist Network involved?

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21. Jim Monaghan - October 28, 2010

http://circumlimina.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/halleula/

More discussion above.
On RBB
I am way of looking into the future and predicting betrayal. Judge on actions.

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22. Captain Rock - October 28, 2010

‘I’d actually be more concerned about Declan Bree. He strikes me as highly opportunistic.’

Yeah I hate these fly by nights, active since the 1960s…

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Paul - October 28, 2010

You have a valid point. Bree as far as I can recall voted for the Tax Amnesty and left Labour over in-fighting over candidates in Sligo/Leitrim

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DublinDilettante - October 28, 2010

I would have issues with Bree as well, but I dunno…if he’s signed up to the programme and making the right noises (as he has been for a while), I guess there’s only so much second-guessing you can do, short of hauling him to a re-education camp. Is it ageist of us to think that he’s less likely to undergo a Pauline conversion in his fifties?

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irishelectionliterature - October 28, 2010

Here’s a 1987 Bree Leaflet from before he joined the Labour Party. His views then were Socialist with a hint of Republican.
http://wp.me/pDoVn-26

The in-fighting over candidates refered to above was to do with the selection of former Fine Gael councillor Jim McGarry who wouldn’t be known for his singing of ‘The Red Flag’. So I wouldn’t hold that against Bree.

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Tomboktu - October 28, 2010

Bree as far as I can recall […] left Labour over in-fighting over candidates in Sligo/Leitrim

I thought he left Labour following a dispute, initially with other Labour councillors in Sligo and then Pat Rabbitte over Traveller accommodations decisions on the Council.

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Niall - October 29, 2010

I believe that the straw that broke the camel’s back was some sort of personal attack from Pat Rabbite.

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23. Jim Monaghan - October 29, 2010

Look this is a United Front hopefully. It is about minimum programs. In my opinion no to coalition is central. If we are lucky and score respectable there might be a momentum which can make it bigger than the parts. Down the line I would like to see a process where a full program of a real workers party might emerge. I see this as a process of debate not where some messiah ( and we have plenty of them) comes to a conference where they announce to a “grateful” audience, the way, the truth. At this stage we need to avoid thoise who while pretending to be lefts supported FF and in parallel avoid a jesuitical process of selectinmg “pure” candidates.

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24. Paul - October 29, 2010

Jim why exactly were the Workers Party, IRSP, éirígí,CPI, ISN not invited, or were they?

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Mark P - October 29, 2010

Paul, I realise that your question was addressed to Jim, but here’s an answer anyway

Paul,

The organisations which have come together to discuss this alliance chose each other as initial partners for two fairly simple reasons:

1) They see their current political approaches as broadly speaking compatible.

2) These were the organisations likely to include the overwhelming majority of left candidates in the forthcoming elections, and an even more overwhelming majority of the serious left candidates.

Getting agreement between these groups was a first step, and given the divisions on the Irish left a not particularly easy first step. This does not mean that no other groups will be able to be involved. It’s a starting point rather than a finished product.

Personally, and remember that my opinion carries no weight beyond being a personal opinion, I would welcome the involvement of groups like the ISN and Workers Party, assuming that those groups want to get involved and would agree to the minimum political programme and whatever organisational requirements there are.

I’m not sure why Eirigi or the IRSP, a party which has never stood an election candidate and a party which hasn’t done so in many years, would want to get involved in an alliance aimed towards an election in the first place. And again, as a personal opinion, I don’t see that either have enough politically in common with the groups already involved for an alliance to make any kind of sense.

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LeftAtTheCross - October 29, 2010

Mark, any sign of an official statement from the SP?

Garibaldy, you’ve been very quite on this so far.

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Mark P - October 29, 2010

Not as of yet, LatC. One will come along. Eventually.

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Tomas Gorman - November 1, 2010

Mark,

Could you elaborate on these political differences. I would be fairly confident in saying that the IRSP would be willing to challenge those who assisted in the financial ruin through electoral intervention in the south.

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DublinDilettante - October 29, 2010

I’m fairly hopeful that the Workers’ Party will become involved, but their relatively deep roots in some constituency can cause problems for this type of initiative. I’m not just talking about the South and South East, but my own council ward, where they hit upon the ingenious formula of running not one, but two, candidates against the ISN. As a result, a particularly asinine FF head (and former PD) took the last seat, which otherwise would probably have gone to a left candidate.

That said, the alliance would be very much the poorer for their absence, and I hope they come on-board at some stage. éirígí – they have a flair for agitprop and a lot of energetic (albeit politically confused) young members who can’t be written off as a dead loss. They certainly have something to contribute, but the political price would be too high for my liking. IRSP? There’s no way what little they could contribute would counteract the objections many on the left and amongst the general public would have to their politics and history.

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Tomas Gorman - November 1, 2010

DD,

I totally understand the historical baggage comment, but what is the political difference you alluded to?

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25. Paul - October 29, 2010

Sorry Jim but one more question for you – who are the ‘lefts’ who supported Fianna Fail that you are on about?

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26. Jim Monaghan - October 29, 2010

I am not involved so I don’t know. Outside of a virtual universe I am not very significant.I would be for inviting them to sign and possibly allocate constituencies. WP in Waterford I suppose.I would see a role maybe for the Peoples Movement.I would support a clear distance between the alliance and any group which supports armed struggle. Not saying that anyone does but you see what I mean. It is a top down sort of thing. The main players do not much trust each other and would see this as taking a risk. I am glad they are doing it but I can see why they have reservations.That is a reality.Working together successfully and fraternally can do much which will be goiod in the longterm. Having open meetings would be good provided that they are not forums for every crackpot in the country with the great”solution” eg IWG etc,
I can see a need to prevent being associated with some flat earth society type candidate who might bring discredit to the movement.For now I am happy with this breakthrough, hopefully there are no slips or falling outs.
I would dampen expectations. I think there is a danger of standing too many candidates.The election will be between FF, FG and Lab. It will be about a government. The locals and EU are not a guide. This is about the next Taoiseach and minister of Finance not a protest. This will squeeze the real left.
This is about providing a shadow of an alternative and the future.

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27. Jim Monaghan - October 29, 2010

Supporting FF in power.
TD, Finian Mc Grath,
I know and like Finian but as far as I am concerned he crossed the Rubicon on a one way ticket.

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ejh - October 29, 2010

A pedant writes: the whole point about crossing the Rubicon is that you can’t take it back when you’ve done it…

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ejh - October 29, 2010
28. Paul - October 29, 2010

Jim, as regards all those groupings that were not invited, none of them support armed struggle including the IRSP. I dont

As for the likes of McGrath who supported FF, where does that leave the WP who supported a FF govt and Bree who supported and went into coalition with FF and FG?

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29. Jim Monaghan - October 29, 2010

They have to sign on the bottom line. For me anti-coalitionism is the bottom line. I feel that there is a touch of popular frontism on the Irish left.A sort of republicanism of fools vis a vis FF (they are not blueshirts, as if they were not as bad), where I see them as just another bourgeois party. FF are quite good at pretending that it was Harney and the PDs, that they were only poor social democrats caught in a deadly embrace.
Bree has signed, it is up to the WP, ISN to negotiate. If I had a say, I would be sympha, I don’t.The WP and Bree have distanced themselves from coalitionism, let us hope it was for good. McGrath has not and would have to serve a penance in my opinion.
Eirigi. I like the idea of a radical socialist republican party which avoids ( I could be stronger) the charms of group Bs, and anything to do with armed force. I don’t think that they are inclined this way, but they should be explicit about it.
While the IRSP have distanced themselves from their past, there is still a smell of cordite, and until it wafts away, I would regards them as out of the question.I don’t want to have to try and explain the unexplainable on the doorstop.
I suppose that getting Mark P and myself on a similar hymn sheet is a start. His rationale is almost the same as mine.
Oh if SF would get out of the special conference stuff and explicitely say they will oppose any bourgeois combination in the Dail, I would be most happy. Lately they have been the only party challenging the consenus on making the poor and middleclass( making the middleclass poor) suffer and the dreadful shock of reducing the deficit in such a short period. But leaving the door open to coalition sounds to me like a certain type of person haggling about the price.I am also unimpressed about the idea of SF mininsters, North and South, being some kind of sysmic shift.
While not perfect, this is a start on a good basis.

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30. Paul - October 29, 2010

So the IRSP are being excluded because of the “perception” as opposed to the reality?

As for eirigi, they have been clear and unambiguous from day one in terms of armed struggle.

Speaking about armed struggle, is it only groups that support armed groups in Ireland that are considered dodgy or does that include groups who support armed struggle elsewhere?

If McGrath explicity made clear he was opposed to coalition would he then be acceptable?

And is anti-coalition a position in all circumstances? What I mean, if there was enough of this alliance elected and there was a huge swing to Labour and SF for example and there was a possibility of a coalition with Labour and SF, is that also ruled out or would that be considered?

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31. Mark P - October 29, 2010

As for eirigi, they have been clear and unambiguous from day one in terms of armed struggle.

Well yes. In the sense that they say that the conditions aren’t right at the moment.

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32. Paul - October 29, 2010

Is that not most peoples positions? Or are the SP pacifists?

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Mark P - October 29, 2010

The Socialist Party are against the tactic of terrorism, whether now or in the future.

This is not the same thing as pacifism, although the Republican terminology “armed struggle” elides the differences between terrorism and other forms of warfare, conflict or violence.

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33. Paul - October 29, 2010

So thats not a problem between those groups then is it

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Mark P - October 29, 2010

There is some considerable distance between “against terrorism” and “in favour of terrorism, but not yet”. In particular, the adherents of the first position may justifiably wonder about the medium to long term wisdom of entanglements with adherents of the latter position.

Of course, there are a lot of different possible variants of the “time is not right” point of view, which means that it’s of some interest what conditions exactly groups like Eirigi might want to see a terrorist campaign under. And that’s something that they haven’t really clarified either way, to my knowledge.

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Paul - October 29, 2010

Mark where did eirigi or any of the other groups you didnt deem good enough to join your alliance say they want to see a terrorist campaign? They haven’t. You are making this shit up as you go along.

Have you a problem with people who may support armed struggle in other countries or see there may be a time where some people might to resort to armed struggle in other countries? Would those people be deemed acceptable for your alliance?

And you say the SP are not pacifist. So under what conditions would youse support the use of force?

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Mark P - October 29, 2010

Paul,

Who is welcome or not welcome in this alliance is not up to me, as I keep emphasising.

Eirigi have commented repeatedly on the dissident terrorist campaigns, and their line has been to defend tbeir right to do it while saying that the conditions don’t currently exist for such a campaign. They don’t ever say that they are against a terrorist campaign in principle.

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34. The ULA | Never Felt Better - October 29, 2010

[…] certainly plan to write more about this in the not too distant […]

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35. Paul - October 29, 2010

Would YOU personally welcome individuals or groups who support armed struggle abroad or who would believe there might be a time somewhere in the future when they might support armed struggle abroad them Mark?

Under what conditions would the SP support the use of force Mark?

Eirigi have repeatedly sauid they dont support the likes of the CIRA or RIRA. They have never expressed support for any terrorist activity and have never said anything about conditions not being right for terrorism.

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Mark P - October 29, 2010

They use the Republican term “armed struggle”, which hides more than it reveals. Republicans never refer to Republicans as terrorists, after all. In Ireland, since partition, “armed struggle” has only ever meant terrorism however.

Their criticisms of the RIRA and CIRA have repeatedly and explicitly on the grounds that the conditions aren’t right. Maybe I’ve missed something where they’ve said that such campaigns are wrong in and of themselves, but my recollection is certainly of them defending the right of such groups to exist. If you can point me to an explicit repudiation of terrorism, I’d be grateful.

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Paul - October 29, 2010

Armed struggle is not a republican term. It is a term that describes people engaged in a struggle using arms. You may describe that as terrorism. Many others, including I would say many many people within this alliance.

They have never expresed any support for terrorism EVER. If you can show me somewhere where they said they would potentially support terrorism, please do. As I pointed out, like the sp, acording to you, or the swp or Healy or bree, the irsp or eirigi or indeed the WP, CPI etc are not pacifists. The only objection any o fthose groups, and that goes for the like of SF, Labour, Greens FF and FG too, is whether the conditions are right.

How would you feel about people who support what you call terrorism in other countries being in this alliance? Do you think they should be involved.

You still havent said under what conditions the SP would support using force. Any reason why?

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Mark P - October 30, 2010

Paul, “armed struggle” is a term used by Republicans which bundles together a number of different things. It elides the differences between terrorism and other forms of violence, allowing Republicans to bundle together their own terrorist campaigns (ie campaigns of bombings and assassinations) with guerilla struggles in mostly peasant countries and indeed any other form of armed violence deemed acceptable.

Eirigi oppose the terrorist campaigns of the CIRA and RIRA, but they defend their right to wage those campaigns and their opposition is based on an assessment that such campaigns won’t work in current circumstances. If the circumstances were more favourable, that would be different. That’s my understanding at least. I asked you if you knew of any article where they said otherwise, and I’m certainly willing to be corrected on this if you can provide me with a link to a repudiation of terrorism on principle.

Terrorism is a subset of armed violence. The Socialist Party is not pacifist and does not oppose armed violence in all circumstances. It does however oppose terrorism as a tactic.

As for the issue of terrorism in other countries, if any particular group does support that then I think that they are wrong. Terrorism is counterproductive, elitist, pointless and wrong. However, what someone thinks about some issue 3,000 miles away is self-evidently less important for the purposes of an alliance in Ireland than what they think about Ireland.

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ejh - October 30, 2010

Just to clarify, are you under the impression that “guerilla struggles in mostly peasant countries” haven’t included “bombings and assassinations”?

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Budapestkick - October 30, 2010

ejh, there is a quite clear difference between guerilla warfare and terrorism, though both can include similar tactics. Primarily, guerilla struggles have a mass support base, and importantly, a chance of winning while terrorist campaigns are fundamentally quixotic with limited support. There is quite a sharp distinction between the struggle in Vietnam or Cuba and the tactics employed in Greece on May Day, the Omagh bombing or the Darkley massacre.

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Mark P - October 30, 2010

No, ejh, bombings and assassinations happen in all kinds of violent conflict. But a terrorist campaign consists centrally of nothing but bombings and assassinations.

Guerilla struggle is something which can be successful in largely rural, heavily peasant based, societies. What you get in an urbanised, modern, industrial setting isn’t guerilla struggle but individual terrorism. It’s the distinction between the Sandinistas and the Red Army Faction, or the Cuban revolution and the INLA.

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WorldbyStorm - October 30, 2010

Without disagreeing that large tranches of the violence were counterproductive (and in most instances wrong) I don’t think it’s possible to delineate a ‘guerrilla war’ = acceptable, all other armed struggle = unacceptable. Or to put it another way there seems to me to be a world of difference between Red Army Faction and the IRA. There are a number of reasons for this. There’s little doubt that PIRA (and OIRA during their active years) were an expression of a broader political mobilisation within communities in a way that the 1970s urban terrorists in Germany and other parts of Europe simply weren’t. That this was a minority of those communities (in NI) isn’t really the issue, as exemplified by near mass support at certain points, Bloody Sunday, Hunger Strikes, and so on, this wasn’t individualistic terrorism but actually tapped into broader societal strands. Now, obviously in the North this runs slap bang into the basic issue that it’s a society divided between two different sociopolitical allegiances (for want of a better term) which has inherent constraints on what armed struggle can achieve (particularly when the larger division has a sponsor in the form of the regional hegemon.

There are other issues as well, unlike RAF etc, there were points where armed struggle looked feasible as a means of pushing the British government to various positions. In the 1970 to 1974 period which saw the demise of the Stormont regime in large part due to Republican actions (but also with non-violent agitation as a key component) it was far from unrealistic to hold a view that further pressure might influence the British to move. We know of course in retrospect that that was relatively unlikely. But it wasn’t impossible, in the way that RAF violence in West Germany was as a credible engine of societal change. It’s also arguable that armed struggle in its form from 1970 to the early 1990s did ultimately shape the final dispensation making it impossible for the British to exclude Republicanism in the way that earlier efforts right up to and including the Anglo-Irish Agreement did. So that too was a distinct difference. Again none of this is to support Darkley, etc, but to say that if that is the measure of what is meant by ‘armed struggle’ or ‘terrorism’ then it’s perhaps glossing over the broader point of what the conflict was about, what were achievable and unachievable goals and fundamentally what Republicanism for the most part sought.

It’s also worth reflecting that in general PIRA (and OIRA and indeed INLA etc) were effectively working class. That doesn’t in any sense legitimise what too place, but it does make it rather different again to the RAF, etc.

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eamonndublin - October 30, 2010

the resistance during the second world war was all about bombing and assasinations – were they terrorists? The SP called british squaddies ‘only workers in uniform ‘ and perhaps seen them as akin to armed postmen or bus drivers. I think that says enough about their views on armed struggle. like many others , they only supported selective wars especially the far away ones.

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Mark P - October 30, 2010

WbS,

It makes little difference if terrorists have the passive support of 10% of the population or 2% (and that’s essentially what we’re talking about when we contrast the PIRA with the RAF.) And of course the precise Republican terrorists we are talking about here, the INLA had popular support rather closer to that of the RAF than to the PIRA’s 10%.

Terrorism does not work, unless perhaps your goals are as nihilistic as your methods. The PIRA campaign, perhaps the most sophisticated and determined terrorist campaign in history, resulted in complete and utter defeat. Its proponents and leaders are now on the Queen’s payroll, administering the union. The fantasists who think that they can do better, whether now as in the case of the CIRA and RIRA, or at some later stage when the conditions are ripe, as in the case of some others, are fools.

I think, by the way, that you are misunderstanding the point about guerilla war. I was not saying that guerilla warfare is legitimate but that no other form of armed violence is. There are many forms of violence that can have a utility in particular circumstances, guerilla warfare being just one of them. Terrorism however is not one of them.

My point was that terrorism, the strategy of bombings and assassinations in a modern, urbanised, society, is quite distinct from guerillaism, a strategy utilised in rural, peasant, societies. One of the many distinctions is that guerilla warfare can sometimes work.

Finally, it was completely and utterly stupid to believe that terrorism would drive the Brits out in 1974. I’m genuinely startled that you are so soft on the thinking of the delusional and bloodthirsty maniacs leading the PIRA in that period. Their thinking was every bit as demented as that of the RAF.

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neilcaff - October 30, 2010

Well it hasn’t taken long for the left Republicans to get up on their hobby horse about the SP has it? Are the nerve impulses to type “Orange Socialists” racing towards your twitchy little fingers? I’ll bet they are.

Yep, people like you are just what a fragile alliance taking it’s first steps need right now.

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WorldbyStorm - October 30, 2010

Actually, I have no idea how large was the degree of support for RAF, but I doubt in any meaningful sense it reached 2% where we have good evidence that engagement amongst Republicans/Nationalists with various flavours of Republicanism was much much greater than that. Moreover there’s a qualitative difference between the two struggles. At best, at best, RAF and their ilk were a sort of add on with almost no organic connection at all with the classes they purported to represent. Republicanism by contrast is a long established and deeply linked aspect of Irish political and sociopolitical culture.

And are we suddenly talking about the INLA? Armed struggle covers a multitude. But even if we were the INLA for all their faults did have some actual linkages into the working class and arguably profoundly deeper ones than RAF etc.

You’re wrong though I’m afraid. Terrorism though does work, unless you’re nihilists like RAF et al. Terrorism shapes contexts, delineates the boundaries within which a political issue can ‘solved’. That the boundaries change (as with the settlement Republicanism ultimately went for, as distinct from the one they started out seeking) is irrelevant because political contexts more broadly change. And to call the campaign a defeat is somewhat of a simplification of matters. Simply put Republicanism was able through the campaign to stymie all the efforts of the British to ‘normalise’ or ‘Ulsterise’ the problem through various assemblies etc. In the end not merely was power sharing introduced, something Unionism and in particular the DUP were profoundly antagonistic to but powersharing inclusive of Republicans, something almost impossible to imagine previously. And then we’re into a whole bunch of other issues as regards the consocietational aspects of the Agreements. There was no coincidence that SF was strongest and remains so in the North, that once the leadership of SF and the IRA was wrested from Southerners there was a change in direction.

I’m addressing the terms, not so much as you particularly phrase them but as they’ve been thrown around in the debate. But taking say terrorism as phrase, even there its tricky to try to shoehorn the armed struggle into simply that dynamic. There were terroristic aspects, but there were aspects which clearly weren’t, including open engagements with military formations. Assassinations weren’t really characteristic of the conflict, yes, the INLA did their bit, but in general terms what’s notable is that political and civilian figures were generally not targets.

And was it really so stupid in 1974 to believe that after three or four sustained years where one of the most long lasting single party governments in Europe had been brought down (admittedly directly through proroguement but nonetheless by a range of other tactics which made its continuance impossible politically for the British) that there was some hope of British withdrawal? The Irish government from the documentation released by National Archives and British Archives certainly thought there was a significant possiblity that precisely this might happen. Reading between the lines there was some appetite for this amongst British political and military leaders.

And as to your last point, that’s really kind of insulting.

Actually I’ll add to that. I couldn’t give a toss about people being startled about my statements, or opinions. What I try to do as best as I can is provide my thoughts with as much sense of what others during a time period might think. You might well think that the IRA during the early 1970s was bloodthirsty and filled with maniacs, and trust me – given my own political heritage I’m no fan of PIRA during that period (indeed I’d direct you to the next post in the Left Archive), but to use such simplistic and reductionist terms for what was a much much more complex entity is not merely to drag the discussion down to a rather puerile level but also to do a disservice to the actuality of what was happening and to completely detach it from the context within which it happened. I’ve no problem not identifying with PIRA’s actions, I’d consider as a socialist Republican that OIRA was much closer to a proper line, but I also see that the period from 68-69 onwards saw hammer blow after hammer blow from state formations against Nationalists and Catholics (and yes, attacks back against civilian populations as on Bloody Friday) which almost inevitably would generate increasingly violent responses and often uncontrolled ones. But to simply see those responses as ‘terrorism’ or worse again to equate this in some way with West German society and the ludicrous selfist angst of RAF is again I think to reduce the historical reality of Northern Ireland to a caricature. And to see the political leadership of that period, a leadership I hold no candle for, as ‘bloodthirsty maniacs’ is tabloidesque nonsense. They were deeply and profoundly wrong, their analysis was misconceived, but they were far from maniacs and on their own terms would be deeply and sincerely repulsed by the idea that they were bloodthirsty. That there were actions, like Bloody Friday, that were unconscienable doesn’t invalidate that, all it does is point to the fact that you cannot treat of these as simple little narratives of good and bad, whether in terms of the term terrorism or the broader processes at work.

And the practical implication of that is that there is a clear danger in simply ignoring or misreading the dynamics that led/lead people to take up armed struggle. I can abhor the Provos campaigns in the early 1970s. I can think that various tactics and strategies they used subsequently were, at best not much cop, at worst abysmal in the extreme, human bombs etc, all of which I do. But it’s essential to understand that what happened (and unfortunately what continues to happen) was shaped by a specific history of place, class, time, etc and was a far remove from bloodthirsty maniacs simply getting their jollies by letting off no-warning bombings in crowded civilian areas.

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eamonndublin - October 31, 2010

Surely the SP condemns the famous terrorist James Connolly who used arms to force a British withdrawal without the support of the Irish people while the same british were fighting the great war for civilisation. And as for those other nationalists in 1916, shame on them…..

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Mark P - October 31, 2010

If you really find it insulting that I’m startled to see you providing justifications for the Provos, then that’s regrettable but I’ll just have to live with it.

The IRA campaign had one single, central, goal. To force British withdrawal from Ireland. They completely and utterly failed to reach that objective. They have not moved one milimeter towards that goal and they have arguably moved it further away. Their campaign is a failure.

They called a ceasefire, disarmed, and are now helping to run the British administration in the North. One of the few things the dissidents are correct about is that they have been defeated and have surrendered. Of course, the dissidents, incorrigable idiots that they are, think that if only some people with more moral fibre can continue to beat their heads against the same wall, someday the wall will collapse.

The IRA could have announced their surrender during the Sunningdale period and in the long run their political descendants would be engaged in a power sharing government. They wouldn’t be “republicans” in government though, at least in their own sense of the word “republican”. They’d be the more hardline Catholic party in government, which is much what they are today.

As for describing them as delusional and bloothirsty – the idea that the British could be bombed out of Northern Ireland in 1974 was indeed delusional. This was also the period when they were heavily engaged in “tit for tat” murders of civilians, which it’s hardly over the top to describe as bloodthirsty.

I do not at all deny that the IRA had a lot of support, amounting to perhaps 10% of the Northern population. That’s more than the likes of the RAF or Red Brigades, although it’s worth noting that the likes of the Red Brigades did have strong support amongst a small minority of the population. My point is that in assessing whether the tactic of terrorism has a chance of success, whether you have 10% or 1% support is relevant only in that it means you can do something useless, counterproductive and doomed on a bigger scale, for a longer time.

There was never any chance that the Provisionals could bomb the British out of Northern Ireland. To the credit of the Officials, they understood that quite quickly, while it took their dimmer cousins some decades to figure out.

By the way, by assassinations and bombings, I didn’t just mean Airey Neave style assassinations of prominent individuals. Most of the PIRA attacks on British soldiers and in particular UDR men and RUC reservists were assassinations – putting a bomb under a car, shooting someone on their way to work, etc.

I have made no comment on the issue of the “dynamics that lead/led people to take up armed struggle”. That’s an interesting subject in it’s own right, but it’s not relevant to the counterproductiveness of terrorism as a tactic.

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Mark P - October 31, 2010

Eamon, I know that historical literacy isn’t prized amongst Republicans, but surely even you are aware that 1916 was a conventional military engagement. The Republicans fortified positions and tried to hold them against military assault. It was a doomed plan, but it wasn’t terrorism.

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WorldbyStorm - October 31, 2010


If you really find it insulting that I’m startled to see you providing justifications for the Provos, then that’s regrettable but I’ll just have to live with it.

Yeah, yeah, me too. At no time have I ‘provided a justification for the Provos’. What I have done though, as I explained in my previous comment, is and was to contextualise the situation from their viewpoint and others. If you continue to argue that I’m providing justifications for Provo actions then I think you seriously misunderstand how one goes about analysing and discussing an issue like this.

The IRA campaign had one single, central, goal. To force British withdrawal from Ireland. They completely and utterly failed to reach that objective. They have not moved one milimeter towards that goal and they have arguably moved it further away. Their campaign is a failure.

If you view the Republican campaign as a single seamless unity then that is indeed the case. If however you look at it as an overlapping series of approaches (sometimes contradictory) whose end-goal is Irish unity and see it as something that continues then it’s much more evident that different tactics and strategies have been employed and subsequently discarded (explicitly so in the wake of the Border Campaign etc), with long periods of stalemate involved (there’s even an argument that if one examines documents like Éire Nua and then subsequent SF policies on a dispensation there’s never been complete agreement within PSF as to the shape of the dispensation). To argue that there has been no change at all in the constitutional and de facto situation in regard to the North since 1968 is again a simplification of the truth. In that time Britain was forced to prorogue Stormont, attempt to set up assemblies and then shut them down again, accept a measure of joint sovereignty with the South through Hillsborough and eventually a much greater measure of joint sovereignty exercised through a devolved administration in Belfast and the Government of the Republic with both of the latter being able to operate as stand alone with no reference to the UK govt and the potential for increased cooperation and joint activity. Now, in large measure that was driven by the existence of the IRA even if those aims weren’t coterminous with those of the IRA. But in terms of what was acceptable in 1968 to Britain (let alone Stormont) and what is now the prevailing situation to argue there has been not a millimeters movement towards a UI is unconvincing. But my previous point still stands, even if the IRA couldn’t fulfill its primary objective (something one suspects the penny dropped for many of their members in the 80s) it was still able to shape the outcome to a lesser, or greater, extent.

They called a ceasefire, disarmed, and are now helping to run the British administration in the North. One of the few things the dissidents are correct about is that they have been defeated and have surrendered. Of course, the dissidents, incorrigable idiots that they are, think that if only some people with more moral fibre can continue to beat their heads against the same wall, someday the wall will collapse.
That only holds true if one sees it as a single event. But no more than you’d argue that the Socialist Party has failed utterly because socialism hasn’t been achieved today Republicans can presumably turn around and say that the situation is an evolving one, that the structures set in place under the GFA are better suited towards shifting towards eventual unity than the situation prior to that and so on. In other words, talk of surrender and defeat, such absolutes, only operate if one thinks of this in absolute terms. And even PIRA during the 1970s wasn’t stupid enough to think that withdrawal would happen immediately, but would be a staged process over years (the timescales not surprisingly increased as the 70s went on). Once one believes that there’s a timescale then talk of surrender and defeat becomes… well, academic.

And to be honest the structures under the GFA are radically different to ‘British administration’. There’s a fairly detailed body of research available on the consocietational nature of same and how this marks a step change from previous attempts to engage with this and like problems.
But even that is to ignore the defenderist aspect of Provisionalism which was also about carving out a space for Nationalists/Republicans within the North.

The IRA could have announced their surrender during the Sunningdale period and in the long run their political descendants would be engaged in a power sharing government. They wouldn’t be “republicans” in government though, at least in their own sense of the word “republican”. They’d be the more hardline Catholic party in government, which is much what they are today.
Erm… no they couldn’t. And it wouldn’t have worked either for an obvious reason. Sunningdale wasn’t brought down by the IRA, though it didn’t help. It was brought down by Unionism. Truth is, and this is unpleasant in terms of its implications, it took two and a half decades for the bulk of unionism to come to terms with power-sharing with Nationalists of the most moderate stripe let alone Republicans. And it took a further five years or so for an overwhelming majority of unionists to accept it. In other words in 1972/3 there was no hope that Unionism could cut a deal that would stick. And in truth little or no hope that for long after that would have been the case.
And to be honest I don’t think there is a contradiction for Republicans to exercise power in a power-sharing administration with their Republicanism. Another way of looking at it is that they would be demonstrating that they can be effective in civil administration, that they might attract people of goodwill to them, etc, etc. I don’t know how effective that is, but it’s surely no different in principle to the SP being in local government. It builds support, ensures people hear their voices, etc, etc.

As for describing them as delusional and bloothirsty – the idea that the British could be bombed out of Northern Ireland in 1974 was indeed delusional. This was also the period when they were heavily engaged in “tit for tat” murders of civilians, which it’s hardly over the top to describe as bloodthirsty.
But the problem is that that’s a simple emotive term which means absolutely nothing. It’s not just irrelevant, it’s actually counterproductive. All it demonstrates is a lack of understanding of the historical and societal context within which such violence took place, a sort of ‘tut-tut’ about violence with no regard as to its function, purpose of justification.
Unfortunately the historical record demonstrates that there was nothing at all delusional about believing that the armed struggle could force the British out in 74. Here’s a document in JSTOR by Garret FitzGerald who was approached not by starry eyed idealist delusional Republicans, but by SDLP politicians who were profoundly disturbed at just that possibility on the part of the British Government. http://www.jstor.org/pss/30002102 And here’s some reflection on the docs from National Archives. http://www.tribune.ie/archive/article/2005/jan/02/doomsday-plan-gave-part-of-north-to-republic/
If that was true of the fairly grounded RoI and SDLP pols how much more so that view might have been embedded in the febrile stew of the Republican heartlands? If Dublin for all its intel, its cultural and other links to London, believed there was a good chance the British would cut and run why would you persist in applying terms like ‘stupid’ and ‘delusional’ to PIRA in that regard?

I do not at all deny that the IRA had a lot of support, amounting to perhaps 10% of the Northern population. That’s more than the likes of the RAF or Red Brigades, although it’s worth noting that the likes of the Red Brigades did have strong support amongst a small minority of the population. My point is that in assessing whether the tactic of terrorism has a chance of success, whether you have 10% or 1% support is relevant only in that it means you can do something useless, counterproductive and doomed on a bigger scale, for a longer time.
There was never any chance that the Provisionals could bomb the British out of Northern Ireland. To the credit of the Officials, they understood that quite quickly, while it took their dimmer cousins some decades to figure out.
By the way, by assassinations and bombings, I didn’t just mean Airey Neave style assassinations of prominent individuals. Most of the PIRA attacks on British soldiers and in particular UDR men and RUC reservists were assassinations – putting a bomb under a car, shooting someone on their way to work, etc.

Point of information, the stated reason OIRA ceasefired was because they believed the danger of civil war in the North was too great, not that it was impossible to force the British out.

But the problem is that you continue to contextualise the IRA in the same breath as RAF. They’re simply two completely different approaches to political violence.
I don’t want to harp on about community support for PIRA, but it existed in a way which was qualitatively different to that of the RAF, for obvious reasons. PIRA was merely the latest incarnation of something that existed within Nationalist/Republican areas for decades, arguably even centuries. RAF could have no similar historical lineage within West Germany.
Terrorism in the North, the shootings, bombings, etc, did destabilize Stormont, was palpably effective in that instance, did destabilize the North and prevent any ‘internal’ solution from emerging until it was on terms acceptable to the IRA (and surely, the IRA shifted in its thinking). That’s not counterproductive from the perspective of those using the violence whatever about the morality or legitimacy of it for those of us looking on. And that being the case then your central thesis is incorrect.
RE the present situation, the tragedy (and cynicism) of the dissidents is that they’re trying to restart a conflict from the lowest possible base when in truth they have minimal functional support and a political climate that is entirely set against them. In purely utilitarian terms theres no point at all to what they do. PIRA spent a good part of three decades trying to push towards their goal of a UI through armed struggle and got what I’d suspect is as close as was humanly possible given the obvious constraints. That formations that are a fraction of PIRA’s size would try the same thing would be laughable if the outcomes weren’t so serious.

I have made no comment on the issue of the “dynamics that lead/led people to take up armed struggle”. That’s an interesting subject in it’s own right, but it’s not relevant to the counterproductiveness of terrorism as a tactic.

The problem there is that it’s profoundly relevant to the dynamics which informed the trajectory of the PIRA. From the first defenderist stance in the early years, to a more proactive bombing campaign both in the North (against supposedly econnomic targets) and then in the UK, and then into the long more static campaign marked by a variety of approaches, each can be seen as often direct responses to events that occurred. Not in the slightest attempting to legitimise them, but simply to point out the nature of the armed struggle and the form it took was directly related to the experiences of those who participated in it.

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eamonndublin - October 31, 2010

Mark, you say ‘The IRA campaign had one single, central, goal. To force British withdrawal from Ireland. They completely and utterly failed to reach that objective. They have not moved one milimeter towards that goal and they have arguably moved it further away. Their campaign is a failure
They called a ceasefire, disarmed, and are now helping to run the British administration in the North. One of the few things the dissidents are correct about is that they have been defeated and have surrendered’ – I agree. But if the IRA had achieved a British withdrawal and historical parliamentary documents show that the British Government were interested in the idea and even recently releaced state papers show Gareth ‘the Good’ Fitzgerald had wrote to the British and warned them not to withdraw because it would affect the southern Irish economy, then the IRA would have been viewed as successful as were the ‘unsupported’ rebels of 1916 eventually viewed. To the victor the spoils. If you hero Lenin had of failed, he would just be a mere name in history. The failure of the IRA does not in any way indicate the failure of the republican aspirations for unity.

You also say ‘Eamon, I know that historical literacy isn’t prized amongst Republicans, but surely even you are aware that 1916 was a conventional military engagement. The Republicans fortified positions and tried to hold them against military assault. It was a doomed plan, but it wasn’t terrorism’.
How very selective. Good ‘old’ IRA, bad ‘new’ IRA.If the IRA were to engage in ‘conventional’ military actions, would your view change. History shows that one of the first casualties of 1916 was an unarmed copper shot dead at a gateway. Nasty stuff Mark but hey, why let it get in the way of your bitterness.

Finally, your above argument means that the FSLN, FMLN and ANC, to mention a few were terrorists by your ‘conventional military standards’. They all attacked your precious ‘workers in uniform’ by means of random attacks and not on the ‘battlefield’ as you seem to prefer.

Oh, just thought, Was the murder of Trotsky an act of terrorism or a revolutionary act?

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neilcaff - October 31, 2010

Eamann interesting you raised the ANC. During the Apartheid struggle the co-thinkers of the Socialist Party in South Africa, the Marxist Workers Tendency were part of the ANC.

The MWT resolutely opposed the individual terrorist tactics employed by the likes of the groups around Cyril Ramaphose. The comrades correctly argued (alongside the majority of left working class activists in the ANC) that it would be the mass action of the working class that would smash Apartheid and so argued that work should be concentrated in building the defence committees in the townships and the clandestine unions, particularly the miners where we had a certain influence and played a role in the big strike waves that rocked South Africa in the mid 80’s.

In the last gasp of Apartheid in the run up to the first free elections there were attempts to stir up ethnic division between black South Africans using the Inkatha Freedom Party (a political group of Zulu supremacists). This included armed attack by IFP terrorists on the townships. In the townships where the MWT had a presence we helped set up armed neighbourhood defence committees which brought together blacks of all different ethnic types, including Zulu’s opposed to the IFP’s hooliganism. The weapons and the leadership of the armed groups were under the control of the local community through regular mass meetings.

That is the kind of armed action the SP has supported and would support in the future. It is a world away from the delusional, secretive, undemocratic armed posturing so beloved of Republican fantasists like you.

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ejh - October 31, 2010

I never saw an argument that couldn’t be improved by adding a string of insults to the end of it.

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eamonndublin - October 31, 2010

I’m glad you mentioned the Marxist Workers Tendency. Sure dosen’t everybody know the massive role they played in the ANC and in overturning Apartheid. Their role led to an ANC government which eliminated all forms of discrimination and poverty in South Africe. NOT! and you say history cannot be rewritten.
What next, the Working Marxist workers working tendancy tore down the berlin wall, overthrew pinochet and told Castro how to rally the people.

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Mark P - October 31, 2010

This, quite frankly WbS, is waffle.

Most of your response consists of a rather lengthy argument about the need to understand the context of the PIRA campaign and its dynamics, all of which may or may not be interesting but none of which has any relevance to the argument I’ve been making.

There is no contradiction at all between thinking that the PIRA campaign was inevitably doomed to failure, idiotic, tragic, murderously stupid and on the other hand recognising that it stemmed from complex historical roots, changed over time, enjoyed the vigorous support of a minority of the minority, or had contradictory and overlapping drives and goals. There’s little that you say on those subjects that I disagree with, bar the fact that you regularly stray from explanation to sneaking justification. Yes of course the form the PIRA campaign took “was directly related to the experiences of those who participated in it.” The problem is that such an empty truism tells us nothing of significance about whether the form it took was productive or counterproductive.

Giving more context to the PIRA campaign can, depending on the aspects you choose to highlight, make its actions seem less malevolent (or more malevolent). What it doesn’t change is the absolute futility and counterproductiveness of the campaign. No amount of explanation of how the PIRA arrived at a particular point of view and a particular strategy makes that point of view correct or reasonable or that strategy viable.

You are simply factually wrong if you think that the British had any intention of withdrawing in 1974 whatsoever. That Garrett Fitgerald may have dallied with the notion tells us only that he was a fool himself, or perhaps more likely, that his government believed in considering desparately unlikely eventualities when coming up with contingency plans. The US only stopped updating its plans to invade Canada in the 1960s, which didn’t mean that they were actually considering marching on Ottawa.

The 1974 negotiations completely broke down precisely because the British had absolutely no intention of conceding defeat to the IRA and had absolutely no reason to do so. The IRA could contribute to chaos inside Northern Ireland and cause some irritation in Britain, but that was the limit of its capacity and that could only ever be the limit of its capacity. They could set off a few dozen bombs, shoot a couple of dozen UDR men and murder a few Protestant civilians every year for all eternity without changing that.

Now I accept that you probably aren’t so much arguing that there was a chance of the British withdrawing as a result of the PIRA campaign as that it wasn’t entirely irrational for the PIRA to believe otherwise. And there’s where I think you do your former Comrades in the Officials a serious disservice.

They came from the same social and political background as the Provisionals, they made many of the same errors of judgment too. But to their credit, they realised early on that a terrorist campaign could not drive the British out and could never drive the British out. All of the same sneaking justifications for the Provos stupidity apply with equal force to the Offficials, yet the Officials didn’t fall into the same trap and certainly didn’t keep at it for year after year after year of squalid, pointless, failed, bloodshed. You can choose to believe that this is because the Officials were unusually gifted with strategic insight, or you can choose to believe that the Provos were unusually lacking it. Given some of the stranger things the Officials got up to over the years, I think the balance of probabilities leans towards the latter.

Similarly on the issue of the Provos predilection for sectarian killings, particularly in the early to mid 1970s. It’s all very well to talk about the sectarian context, and indeed that’s important, but it’s just as important to remember that lots of other people and other organisations existed in the same context, (and in the Official’s case came from the same milieu) and yet they managed to restrain themselves from going out on periodic expeditions to clip a Prod.

You are also peddling the Provos line of argument when it comes to the Belfast Agreement. It is as close to a United Ireland “as was humanly possible given the obvious constraints” only if you believe that no motion towards a United Ireland was possible at all. Northern Ireland remains part of the Union. It is not one milimeter, one nanometer, one atom, closer to a United Ireland. The Provisionals are the major Catholic communal party in a zero sum game with the Protestant communal parties within the Union.

They have no strategy to change that either. None at all. The closest thing they have is Gerryspeak waffle about “the logic” of the Agreement pointing in whatever direction they like. They are not able to explain how this alleged logic operates, or how this process could actually unfold for the very simple reason that there is no “logic” pointing towards a United Ireland. It’s underpants gnomes stuff:

Step 1) Become major Catholic communal party under an Agreement which copperfastens the Union and take part in the administration of that Union.

Step 2) ????

Step 3) A United Ireland!

If you call this a strategy, you have a very much more generous definition of strategy than I do. At best it’s a delusion, more likely it’s a cynical exercise in protecting their flank from current and future dissidents. This is why you get Provisionals harping on about the inevitable “logic” of Northern and Southern agencies meeting twice a year to talk about tourism, or the “logic” of having SF Ministers as junior coalition partners on both sides of the border simultaneously. It’s magical thinking and it’s a replacement for an actual strategy.

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WorldbyStorm - November 1, 2010

Waffling and sneaking regarding. Nice.

I find your tone in the last two days fairly distasteful, not least since I’ve met you in real life and have no reason to dislike or – more importantly – disrespect you, and at the least I’d expect likewise. What I also find irritating beyond that is that the sort of discussion where to raise issues and express opinions that are then categorized in the way you did, ie. to argue that I’m somehow a crypto-Provo rather than engaging simply with the substance of the discussion is precisely the reason I stopped commenting on Politics.ie.

Rather than engaging it’s an attempt to undermine the opinions of others by trying to cast them as x, or y or z and imply, pretty explicitly it has to be said, some form of guilt by association.

Thing is my political positions over the years on this site and previously, and indeed in my actual activity outside are very clear.

The points I have made have also been fairly concise.

I’ve pointed out that I found the definitions of ‘terrorism’ laid out above are entirely lacking, not least the RAF/IRA one that you persisted in making until this last comment. You’ve utilized emotive terms throughout, ‘bloodthirsty’ etc, which are entirely inappropriate for a serious discussion of this topic.

Whether the PIRA campaign was doomed to failure is a difficult to gauge. I suspect it was, but I don’t think that it was on its own terms entirely a failure in that it assisted in the removal of a fairly unpleasant regime.

Was that aspect productive or counterproductive from the viewpoint of Republicans?

I’ve also stated that in terms of its ability to shape the final dispensation it was capable of stymying the wishes of a range of actors.

Was that aspect productive or counterproductive from the viewpoint of Republicans?

It’s clearly complicated by the fact that the campaign itself became as bad or worse on many axis as that regime and that is enormously problematic for those who would defend it. But I’m not trying to do so, what I am though is trying to cast a dispassionate eye upon the situation.

In broader terms, talking about productive or counterproductive, in truth I don’t see many alternatives to how the situation actually played out. The depth of alienation of Northern nationalism, such that even when alternatives were available such as the Official line they were rejected by a very significant number, the ineptitude of British government after British government, the disgraceful Pontius Pilate act of successive Irish governments and the overall balance of forces including a Unionism that was quite simply unwilling to reach out and a Republicanism that locked itself largely into a belief that armed struggle would see it through (and became its own justification) makes me suspect that there wasn’t any other way it could have gone. The idea that Republicanism would ceasefire at any point pre the 1990s is utterly wishful thinking (particularly in the context of the hunger strikes).

But more importantly that’s the history we actually have. In the end Unionism was until very very late in the day unwilling to concede even powersharing with the SDLP, Republicanism was unable to break out of armed struggle until long long after there was any justification and so on.

Was it in those terms counterproductive? Of course, but that’s not the point. All the actors could argue that their way was correct and even more so that it was working at least until the mid to late 1980s when it was evident that a stasis had set in. The point being that there was simply no chance of a ceasefire before the early 1990s. None at all. That supertanker was too big, and too powerful, to turn around. I wish it had been otherwise.

Now you can choose to read that as sneaking regard, but I see it as a simple pragmatic analysis.

Your stating that I’m factually wrong that the British had any intention of withdrawal in 1974 is utterly irrelevant. That’s not what I said. What I did say was that there was a perception in both PIRA and Irish political circles in the 1974 period that the British government was tending towards withdrawal. In other words that many individuals, and please don’t insult my intelligence by pretending that it was simply GFG – it was SDLP politicians, Irish politicians and others were of like mind that the British might leave. Therefore for you as you did to say it was delusional or stupid or PIRA to hold the same belief is wrong.

Indeed in such a context it was entirely rational. I’m not trying to defend PIRA here, I’m simply pointing out that your original statement was incorrect.

Would that have been a good thing in broader terms, a British withdrawal? Well, my belief is no, obviously not at that time – a belief that is generated from my own political position and a general agreement with the Official line that civil war could have ensued with absolutely no guarantee that any other state or states could intervened. And I don’t believe really that the British polity could have survived withdrawal without, as I noted earlier at the least a change of government reversing that policy, or perhaps less likely a coup of some form.

But given that I’ve already stated this in a previous comment your point about ‘accepting that I’m not arguing…’ etc is presumably only put forward by yourself for rhetorical effect.

As for the Officials. I’m not doing them any disservice. The stated reasons for the ceasefire were due to the danger of civil war in the North. Nothing at all to do with inability to force the British out. Now, they may well, and presumably many did, know that armed struggle had its limitations, but read the history. By the time of their ceasefire the Provos were already significantly larger and they were fading militarily. There was, and its mixed in terms of motivation, something of making the best of a bad situation with various excuses used.

I haven’t actually mentioned a predilection or otherwise of the Provisionals for sectarian killings, and haven’t mentioned the sectarian context once.

As for peddling the Provo line on the GFA. I have a parallel but distinct analysis which I’ve held, and I know you’ll find this hard to believe, but trust me I’ve been thinking about this quite some time, right since 1998. I think that it represents the furthest the British state could go in terms of reducing aspects of its sovereignty over what had been a fairly integral part of its territory. I’m not sure that in the absence of PIRA, or armed struggle in previous decades, that there would have been any necessity for it to make moves in that direction. Certainly the approach of many in Northern nationalism wouldn’t give much cause for optimism on that score. Is that supporting or peddling a PIRA line? I don’t think so, I think its a basic evaluation of the forces in play and what was possible. It’s a grim evaluation absolutely and I take no pleasure in making it.

But again your understanding of how the GFA does substantively change the nature of British sovereignty is somewhat lacking if you think that it doesn’t both in symbolic and actual terms represent a diminution of British sovereignty. Strand Two disproves your point.

But that also demonstrates problems with your following point. The logic that Adams, etc, used isn’t that difficult to understand. The North South Ministerial Council has real power. Indeed I’d be interested if you could provide any examples of a similar agreement where the executive of a free-standing local assembly within one state is linked institutionally to the executive of a neighboring state and given executive authority (clue: Alastair went looking last year and couldn’t find one). Are they effective, are they widespread, far from it but Strand Two allows more areas to come under the competence of the NSMC if it itself chooses to do so… I disagree with SF that this is ‘inevitable’, but I suspect that it’s likely and all the more so if it there is a push to do so from both sides of the border.

Indeed given that this is codified in how the NSMC and other institutions can operate it seems to me to very far from ‘magical thinking’.

Look, I get what you want to do. You want to use a stick, so to speak, to beat Sinn Féin now, and what more convenient one than the armed struggle? The problem is that that argument only takes you so far. I can agree entirely with you that it was counter-productive, that it should have ended earlier, that vile excesses took place, but that’s again irrelevant. Unless your argument is simply that violence was wrong end of story, and that you ask people to react in ways which history and experience teaches us they tend not to, then you’re on a hiding to nothing.

Because the violence wasn’t ineffective in shaping the final dispensation (though it may have delayed that dispensation, or, in my gloomier moments I think may not), and in that respect arguments as to whether it was productive or counterproductive founder.

And asking people to not react in a way that they did react under the pressures of the time is equally pointless. Which brings us neatly back to dynamics which you profess are irrelevant. If one doesn’t understand the dynamics of the environment which saw a significant portion of Northern nationalism detach to Republicanism, and an increasing number subsequently join them in later years to the point where they are now the primary political force in the North on the Nationalist/Republican side I think we’re talking at cross purposes.

But surely, if you want to continue to take pops at me for being a crypto-Provo, knock yourself out.

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DublinDilettante - October 29, 2010

Will you knock off the hectoring tone, Paul, it’s really unnecessary here.

My own personal view as a non-republican socialist (and not relating specifically to éirígi), is that there’s a whole world of difference between supporting armed resistance in defence of the working class and supporting armed aggression for the furtherance of nationalist aspirations.

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neilcaff - October 30, 2010

The various resistances in Western Europe and the urbanized areas of Eastern Europe (Czechoslovakia, Hungary) were never more than an adjunct to the Allied armies who supplied them with ample money, weapons, intelligence and logistics. To even compare them for a moment to the PIRA displays a laughable historical ignorance.

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neilcaff - October 31, 2010

Or prolonged by zippy one liners?

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Mark P - November 1, 2010

1) If you think that either of us have been “concise” in this exchange i think you are using an unusual definition of that word.

2) I am not describing you as a “crypto Provo”. I do think however that (a) you are using their arguments on the Belfast Agreement to provide a retrospective partial justification for their actions and that (b) you are using a misplaced view of what was “inevitable” to absolve them of responsibility for their own actions. Context is important, but the Provos were not simply the puppets of some law of history.

3) I have not at all moved away from the Marxist view of terrorism as the tactic of bombings and assassinations, generally carried out in industrialised, urbanised, states. Nor from the view that it cannot work. Nor from the view that a wide range of groups, from the RAF to the INLA, from the Red Brigades to the PIRA, used this tactic. I also don’t think that having 10% public support, as opposed to 1%, transforms this tactic into something other than terrorism.

4) If you look back over the earlier part of this derailment, you’ll find that the armed campaign was not raised as a stick to beat the Provos. It was raised in the context of a discussion of those dissident groups which either are attempting to emulate the Provos now (but with added moral fibre) or which hold open the option of trying to emulate the Provos when circumstances become more favourable.

5) I accept that the stated reason for the OIRA ceasefire was the risk of civil war. However, as you really should know (and in fact I suspect do know) this was premised on an understanding that the “armed struggle” was not going to drive the British out. Are you really claiming that the Officials in the run up their ceasefire and after it thought that there was a real possibility that a few more bombs would see the British withdraw with their tails between their legs?

6) I think that your ponderings on the subject of “Strand 2”, diminished sovereignty, the North-South tourism quango and the like are a spectacular example of mistaking the giftwrapping for the gift.

All of this stuff is meaningless waffle. It’s windowdressing for the purposes of selling the deal. The North remains a part of the UK. The British control the important matters of state and those powers which they devolve to the glorified County Council are devolved at the sufferance of Westminster.

This is not an argument that nothing has changed within Northern Ireland, by the way.

7) I completely disagree with your teleological understanding of the recent history of the North. I think that there were a whole number of significant turning points and that the way things went depended on any number of contingencies. The Long War as it unfolded was not the inevitable result of 1969-1971. And shrugging and asking how it could have been otherwise does not in my view come anywhere close to absolving anyone for political responsibility for their actions.

This however is a huge topic and one I really don’t have the energy to get into in this discussion.

8) I’m aware that you didn’t directly mention sectarian killings. You did however object to my description of PIRA leaders in the early and mid 1970s as “bloodthirsty”. The point about sectarian killings was made by me, as I don’t accept that it is remotely unfair to describe the architects of one side of that period’s exchange of “tit for tat” sectarian killings as bloodthirsty.

9) I’m entirely willing to accept that you came up with your views independently of the Provisionals.

10) Finally, I have no reason to dislike or disrespect you either, and indeed I don’t. Discussions on this sort of issue can get heated very quickly, particularly on the internet where the absence of visual cues tends to amplify the harshness of disagreement.

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WorldbyStorm - November 1, 2010

1) If you think that either of us have been “concise” in this exchange i think you are using an unusual definition of that word.

I mean in part in the sense that you know precisely where I’m coming from. I’ve never hidden my political position. I also mean that given the complexity of this topic that I’ve managed to boil it down as best as is possible to a few essentials, but it’s too broad ranging to winnow it further.

2) I am not describing you as a “crypto Provo”. I do think however that (a) you are using their arguments on the Belfast Agreement to provide a retrospective partial justification for their actions and that (b) you are using a misplaced view of what was “inevitable” to absolve them of responsibility for their own actions. Context is important, but the Provos were not simply the puppets of some law of history.

And there, as Ronald Reagan once said, you go again. In neither instance do I absolve them of a the actions that took place prior to that. I’m pointing out that the situation was enormously complex, that the dynamic and momentum of various players was such that it’s near impossible to see any of them taking different courses until late in the day. What do you think the positioning of the period from 1990 to 1998 was about in terms of making Republicanism generally understand the necessity to move away from violence and preventing splits which would have resulted in a much larger dissident contingent? What do you think the positioning from 1998 through to 2007 was about in terms doing precisely the same in regard to dealing with arms in such a way that both their own membership, base and Unionism could be engaged with fully? That’s almost 30 years after PIRA was established. In that respect PIRA were very much puppets and prisoners of their own history, their own legacy and their own rhetoric.

But a broader point is that it is unfeasible to argue a counter factual point where a PIRA leadership tried to disarm or move away from armed struggle before the late 1980s. Even a passing acquaintance with their own history demonstrates how O Bradaigh et al were excoriated by Adams et al for the mid 70s ceasefires, so while no, of course there’s no absolute inevitability it is more than plausible that the events happened when they happened because it was near impossible for them to happen earlier. And again, the events happened as they did.

None of that is an apologia, what it is though is a recognition that the forces at work were significant, deeply embedded and extremely difficult to reshape. For me to say that the context makes other approaches almost impossible is neither to condone or offer an apologia for those who worked within that context, it’s simply to understand the context.

And as Exhibit A consider the fate of the Officials, who became arguably the most reviled element within Northern Nationalism/Republicanism until relatively recently, precisely because they did take a different path, or Exhibits B, C, D etc, all the parties of the Republican left and general left who are marked by their effective impotence and tiny size.
None of this takes away from basic truths that what they did was counterproductive on many many levels, not least in terms of the impacts on the working class, on civilians more broadly, on the trajectory of the conflict.

3) I have not at all moved away from the Marxist view of terrorism as the tactic of bombings and assassinations, generally carried out in industrialised, urbanised, states. Nor from the view that it cannot work. Nor from the view that a wide range of groups, from the RAF to the INLA, from the Red Brigades to the PIRA, used this tactic. I also don’t think that having 10% public support, as opposed to 1%, transforms this tactic into something other than terrorism.

It was absurd to compare and contrast PIRA and the RAF earlier, it remains so. I’ve already pointed out that from its own perspective a deeply embedded campaign with organic links into a community using armed struggle and with facets of terrorism can work at least to a limited degree. The difference with RAF etc was that they had no serious political goals at all, were minuscule in contrast to PIRA, had no serious organic links in their own community (however one defines that), never engaged openly in the way that the IRA did in sub-military engagements and so on. And as noted by others, there are numerous struggles that sit in this area between open military engagement as between guerilla armies and nihilistic terrorist activity of the RAF type. But by all means continue with a ‘Marxist’ view as distinct from one which looks at the actuality rather than trying to shoehorn everything into neat pre-arranged and rather self-serving categories.

4) If you look back over the earlier part of this derailment, you’ll find that the armed campaign was not raised as a stick to beat the Provos. It was raised in the context of a discussion of those dissident groups which either are attempting to emulate the Provos now (but with added moral fibre) or which hold open the option of trying to emulate the Provos when circumstances become more favorable.
The difference between PIRA and CIRA, RIRA is that although they too have some organic roots they lack entirely the numbers/infrastructure and more general support that would sustain their campaigns, and are attempting to reignite a 1970s conflict in the context of the vastly more surveilled 2000s. Moral arguments won’t work with these guys. What might is utilitarianism, if it’s not possible to do then it’s best not to do it.
5) I accept that the stated reason for the OIRA ceasefire was the risk of civil war. However, as you really should know (and in fact I suspect do know) this was premised on an understanding that the “armed struggle” was not going to drive the British out. Are you really claiming that the Officials in the run up their ceasefire and after it thought that there was a real possibility that a few more bombs would see the British withdraw with their tails between their legs?
The Officials had an analysis that civil war would ensue, that increased violence would tip the state over. That didn’t mean they didn’t see withdrawal as an impossibility on foot of continued armed action but that they saw the dangers of civil war as more pressing and posing too great a danger. Certainly a very large proportion of Officials clearly believed, as evidenced by their shift to INLA, that armed struggle was a feasible tactic subsequently.
But even the Officials ‘civil war’ rationale is odd in the extreme on the face of it. Given that PIRA had already outstripped them in size and activity by quite some factor their withdrawal wasn’t in and of itself going to prevent a civil war since PIRA (and later INLA) took up the slack. Nor, as we know, did it function in an educative fashion since no-one else ceasefires.

6) I think that your ponderings on the subject of “Strand 2″, diminished sovereignty, the North-South tourism quango and the like are a spectacular example of mistaking the giftwrapping for the gift.
All of this stuff is meaningless waffle. It’s windowdressing for the purposes of selling the deal. The North remains a part of the UK. The British control the important matters of state and those powers which they devolve to the glorified County Council are devolved at the sufferance of Westminster.
This is not an argument that nothing has changed within Northern Ireland, by the way.

British sovereignty is diminished. There’s no getting away from that. The potential is there for it to be further diminished under Strand Two. None of this is waffle, none of this is meaningless. This is again, precisely what the political struggles in the late 1990s were about, the diminution as Unionism saw it, of sovereignty. And that exists whether you term it a glorified County Council, which it is rather more than (more like a regional authority). And you ignore the point that the BA/GFA is an international agreement. Westminster could perhaps try to revoke it, but at what cost to them politically and otherwise? I can’t envisage the US standing over that, so reality is that Unionism, and Dublin, and everyone else is stuck with it.

7) I completely disagree with your teleological understanding of the recent history of the North. I think that there were a whole number of significant turning points and that the way things went depended on any number of contingencies. The Long War as it unfolded was not the inevitable result of 1969-1971. And shrugging and asking how it could have been otherwise does not in my view come anywhere close to absolving anyone for political responsibility for their actions.
This however is a huge topic and one I really don’t have the energy to get into in this discussion.

I think the longevity of the conflict was very much a function of 1969/71, in that the heightened expectations of that period initially brought a sense that anything could be achieved and then subsequently that if they just kept at it more could be achieved. It’s not ironically to me the former which is the delusional aspect, it’s the latter. Alternative turning points? A grown-up British approach in 69-71. Perhaps the Officials marginalizing the Provisionals. A Unionism that didn’t tip into a sort of proto-fascism after Sunningdale. But truth is examine each of these and they seem more and more unlikely to have happened. But that’s an evasion to suggest it could have gone many different ways. Surely, it could, but it didn’t. It went a very specific way indeed.
And that’s not absolving anyone. If you’d bothered to read any of what I’ve written on this topic previously you’ll see that I see numerous hands who have to take the blame from the Provos to the British Army, Unionism, the British, the Irish Government, etc, etc. Each played their crucial part in keeping the pot boiling, but remove a single element and another would slip into place. And that’s why it was near impossible to remove any actor (perhaps that’s why the Officials were fortunate, on one level, that they got out when they could. Any later and they’d have been caught between the expectations of their own base and their better intentions).

I’m aware that you didn’t directly mention sectarian killings. You did however object to my description of PIRA leaders in the early and mid 1970s as “bloodthirsty”. The point about sectarian killings was made by me, as I don’t accept that it is remotely unfair to describe the architects of one side of that period’s exchange of “tit for tat” sectarian killings as bloodthirsty.
Been through this already. But let’s look at why such actions might seem acceptable to a community that considered itself uniquely marginalized? This sort of approach was drawn directly from defenderism, a sense that in order to prevent further sectarian killing like had to be met with like. In no way does that make it right, but it positions what is an appalling series of crimes some way distant of ‘bloodthirsty’, with all the implications of ‘enthusiasm’ etc, which again is entirely inapposite.
9) I’m entirely willing to accept that you came up with your views independently of the Provisionals.
10) Finally, I have no reason to dislike or disrespect you either, and indeed I don’t. Discussions on this sort of issue can get heated very quickly, particularly on the internet where the absence of visual cues tends to amplify the harshness of disagreement.

Never! Do you think?

But that’s not my gripe here. Cut it whatever way you wish the fundamental issue here in this discussion is that you’ve been analytically and/or factually incorrect about aspect after aspect of this, from the RAF/IRA comparison, through to 1974 and perceptions of the feasibility of winning by the IRA, through to the GFA and consocietationalism and so on. Indeed your own analysis is remarkably self-serving (your most recent point about the teleological understanding of the conflict is perhaps most indicative of this, to talk of significant turning points is irrelevant in the sense that we are where we are and that is in no sense absolves anyone of the acts committed, something at no point I have done – to consider, even to understand and appreciate that in certain contexts appalling outcomes are possible is not to condone and in particular not at the micro level).

And when this has been pointed out by myself what you’ve done has not been to attempt to rework your thesis or to accept (in anything but the most grudging fashion possible, as with your recantation of sorts of about 1974) or to say ‘on this we must differ’ which is fair enough, but to attack me politically again, and again, and again.

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36. Paul - October 30, 2010

DubDilettante, I would agree with you, however my point is that different standards are being applied to some groups and not to others. There are many within this alliance who support armed agression both in the past and currently by “nationalist” (your term) groupings in Ireland and abroad. Many within this alliance honour those who engaged in what Mark defines as terrorism. Bree annually holds an easter commemoration to honour the men and women who took part in the 1916 rising and healy is also a strong supporter of such events. I think you will find that they also would not solely support armed struggle in what you describe as “in defence of the working class” as opposed to what you describe as “furtherance of nationalist aspirations”

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37. Paul - October 30, 2010

Budapestkick: Your comparison between overall struggles (Cuba, Vietnam) as opposed to individual attacks (Omagh, Darkley etc) are not valid. There were many similar (and worse) instances of appalling and unjustifiable actions carried out in those struggles also.

Again, the point is that many would support or would be equivocal (marks claim re eirigi and irsp) about those armed struggles (or terrorism in marks lingo)while the SP are unequivocal in denouncing such “terrorist” actions.

The SP say they are not pacifist, but denounce such “terrorism” yet refuse to say in what circumstances exactly that they support the use of force or armed struggle or whatever they want to call it.

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Budapestkick - October 30, 2010

‘The SP say they are not pacifist, but denounce such “terrorism” yet refuse to say in what circumstances exactly that they support the use of force or armed struggle or whatever they want to call it.’

Putting terrorism in inverted commas does not change the fact that by any objective measure INLA etc. were terrorist organisations with terrorist methods, whether you choose to call them so or not.

Again the claim you make that the SP are pacifists is absolute nonsense. We called for mass resistance (including armed resistance) to, for example, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and similarly when the Bogside was under attack. There is a sharp distinction here between ‘mass’ armed resistance by large masses of working people, and terrorist campaigns which involve a relatively small number of individuals engaging in bombings, assasinations and so forth, particularly by republican paramilitarities which often included bloody sectarian killings which only served to divide the working-class further.

Having said that, I personally don’t have a principled opposition to left-republican involvement in an electoral alliance. The WP for example, would define themselves as republicans (albeit in an extremely different sense to more traditional republican groups) and because of their limited but not inconsiderable base in working-class areas could certainly bring a lot to the table. The IRSP are utterly tarnished by their associations with the INLA while Eírigí seem to me to be committed largely to stunt-type activities and would have little to contribute to an electoral alliance.

On other groups, the ISN have a certain experience of elections and a cool-headed, pragmatic approach which would certainly aid the alliance, especially in cutting across tensions between the larger groups involved.

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38. Jim Monaghan - October 30, 2010

Coalition for me is one with any of the bourgeois parties, FF, FG and the late unlamented PDs.McGrath supported the current coalition. His approach is that he got concessions. This is not the business we are in as far as I am concerned, crumbs from the bourgeoisie.
I am not a pacifist. At the moment there is no basis for armed struggle in Ireland or for an armed group ready to engage in one. Mark P and I disagree on the Provo war (I use a shorthand). I regard it as being based on the support of a section of the Northern masses but insufficient for victory of the national liberation struggle and this it ended in a bloody cul de sac.I regard it as similar to ETA and not the same as say the Red Army fraction.
Where we agree is that there is no basis for armed struggle. If we won ( unlikely) and the right prepared to organise armed reaction, then trade union and left party militias.
Long way away from that.
The IRSP. As as I know the INLA is still in existence. It is a needless distraction. Until it is dropped, the whiff of sulphur and to be frank some of the fairly awful things done persist.I would have regarded myself as a friend of Costello and am fairly sure he would have been unhappy at the evolution of the INLA.
The WP. They exist and have a base. The Officials are at most a memory. The CP, a most respectable crowd.
To use a mantra of the right, we are where we are. This is an agreement between a few far left orgs. It is a limited agreement. It can be built on.
Socialist Republicans (and I am one) in the sense of beleiving the national struggle is progressive and uncompleted need to do an analysis of the defeat of the Provo war and learn lessons.Armed groups and the fatal attraction of them is one of the negative lessons that have to be learnt.
From what I have heard Eirigi are a very interesting group. If they avoid the shortcuts I feel that they will have a role.Anyway it is not up to me. I would also guess that there being many suspicions between the partners, there is a fear of embarassement, so they err on the side of caution. I can see the point.
Last point in many countries the struggle of the oppressed takes many guises, sometimes national liberation struggles, I think Lenin made some remarks about those who want their politics simple and straightforward. When the dust settles the unfinished tasks of national liberation will I think reemerge, hopefully without the millstones represented for the moment by CIRA, RIRA etc.

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39. Paul - October 30, 2010

A lot of very good points there, most of which I would agree with. Just a couple of points back at you

So you personally would be in favour or not opposed to taking part in a coalition with SF or Labour?

It is being said that one of the central tenets of this alliance is being anti-coalition. Has the alliance defined who they are anti-coaltion with?

In terms of armed struggle or terrorism or whatever way people want to describe it, what you have said in terms of armed struggle, is precisely the reason being given by Mark as to why the irps or Eirigi were not invited into this alliance or discussions abou this alliance. My point was that the sp are probably the ones in the alliance that hold that particular view, yet they are more than happy to ally themselves with people who have the same general non-pacifist, conditional support for armed struggle in different countries if the circumstances warrant it, as eirigi and the irps have yet rule these out because this is supposedly a fundamental unreconcilable position.

In terms of the parties who were excluded, particularly the wp and cpi as well as the socialist republicans,excluding them was a bad decision. They may not joined or agreed any common platform but what harm would it have done?

They may have joined up but whatever chance of that is now well and truly gone. Quite rightly they wont tie themselves to an alliance that didnt want them to start with and only want them once the alliance is established and the ains and ins and outs of the alliance have been decided without any input from them. As I said previously, it is a lost opportunity.

Even where some of those groups may not have joined, agreements may have been able to make in term of not contesting seats by the alliance and vice versa. While formal campaigning for alliance candidates may be ruled out, privately the parties could have encouraged their supporters to vote for the alliance candidates and vice versa.

Again, any chance of that has been lost, with what was clearly (and this isnt at you Jim) a deliberate snub to those other organisations, maybe because they view some of them as potential electoral threats down the road, in particular the WP and Eirigi.

It is a typical failed tactic of groups setting up broad fronts before saying to others the, come in on our terms, the right to work campaign and a host of similar other swp fronts are prime examples. People see clearly that these ‘broad fronts’ are anything but, and wont let themselves be used in some sectarian politicking as the swp try to get one up on other organisations. (and by the way, aside from their antics on these sort of things, I have good admiration for the swp and their activism)

Its been called the “United Left Alliance” which it is clearly not. Sadly, its a “Section of the Left Alliance” or an “Elite Left Alliance” because fo sectarian left politics when it actually could have become a genuine broad front of the left in Ireland

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Budapestkick - October 30, 2010

‘Again, any chance of that has been lost, with what was clearly (and this isnt at you Jim) a deliberate snub to those other organisations, maybe because they view some of them as potential electoral threats down the road, in particular the WP and Eirigi.’

I don’t think anyone regards Eírigí as an electoral threat, now or in the future.

The relationship between the groups involved and the WP has been generally positive (Cork WP and SP collaborate for example both at council level and in community struggles and have a good relationship). Indeed the running of Ted Tynan in Cork would be seen as a positive by us in terms of bringing out the left vote and ensuring a slew of 2nd preferences to Mick Barry. Just because the WP are not involved at this stage btw, doesn’t mean they’re not going to join. Maybe Garibaldy could elaborate on these points.

‘Its been called the “United Left Alliance” which it is clearly not. Sadly, its a “Section of the Left Alliance” or an “Elite Left Alliance” because fo sectarian left politics when it actually could have become a genuine broad front of the left in Ireland’

Keep in mind, this is an electoral alliance and nothing more for the time being and it includes not the ‘elite’ of the left, but those with a base in working-class communities and the working-class vote that comes with that. Aside from TWAG, PBPA, Bree’s group and the SP, only the Worker’s Party has a strong base in the working-class.

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40. Paul - October 30, 2010

The WP has a strong base and it baffles me as to why they were not invited in at the start. However despite the good working relationship which they may have in Cork with sp, dont bank on them now to come into an alliance they were deliberately excluded from and had no input into.

If for instance, the SWP had formed this alliance with say the WP and Bree/Healy etc, do you think the SP would join it at a later stage on a take it or leave it basis despite being deliberately excluded?

Do you think the swp would join it if the SP had created it with the wp and bree/healy etc and had excluded the swp from it at its inception?

Of course they wouldnt and no-one would blame them.

In terms of electoral threats, you may be right about eirigi but it does seem quite likely with the wp. What other reason could there be for deliberately excluding them?

In terms of organisation, dont know how strong Healys group is, but while Bree has a strong vote in Sligo, his ‘organisation’ really only exists in name. Again that is no criticism of Bree as he is by and far the best politician in Sligo by a long shot

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Budapestkick - October 30, 2010

Paul, you seem to be convinced that people are being ‘deliberately’ excluded. I haven’t been following the discussions surrounding the alliance (which hasn’t even been finalised yet) but it’s a bit of a stretch to accuse the it of being elitist wiothout any details of the process that led to it (which likely included a lot of give and take by every group involved). For all we know, Eirigi or the WP may have decided themselves not to get involved.

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41. socialist - October 30, 2010

The debate is getting a bit sidetracked here. I tend to agree with Paul, and to be honest, as a socialist republican I could never term armed action against imperialism as ‘terrorism’. As Marxists I think a better approach than ‘all arms used outside of mass action is terrorism’, would be to analyse the prevailing conditions in any society and adapt your tactics to that…not to force doctrinaire tactics to conditions that don’t suit them. Sometimes conspiratorial armies can play a positive role, but the emphasis must always be on mass action.

On this alliance. It’s a positive step but I wouldn’t be jumping up and down yet, as similar things have been tried and have failed. It’s probably better to start out with a couple groups and individuals[less room for petty ideological bickering], and to build from there. I look forward to seeing this develop and hopefully the IRSP, éirigi, ISN and WP can all come on board at a later date.

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Mark P - October 30, 2010

“as a socialist republican I could never term armed action against imperialism as ‘terrorism’”

Were Al Qaida not taking “armed action against imperialism?”. Or the RAF? Or the Red Brigades?

You are confusing motives with tactics. Terrorism can be deployed in support of any cause, including ones you approve of.

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eamonndublin - October 31, 2010

as the famous quote said ‘The terrorists are the ones with the smaller bombs’.

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42. WorldbyStorm - October 30, 2010

That seems to me to be a sensible position socialist.

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43. Captain Rock - October 31, 2010

‘I’m genuinely startled that you are so soft on the thinking of the delusional and bloodthirsty maniacs leading the PIRA in that period.’

Top class Marxist analysis there.
The British Labour party leadership talked to the Provo leadership in March 1972, the Tory government a few months later. The British government talked to them again 1974-75. They discussed leaving and gave O Bradaigh and co the impression they were going. The Irish government certainly believed the Brits were going to walk and were terrified of the prospect (see G. FitzGerald). The Loyalists also thought the prospect of British withdrawal was real. I wouldn’t say MacStofain was anymore blood- thirsty than the Algerians.

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Mark P - October 31, 2010

The notion that the British were planning a withdrawal in 1974 is absolutely laughable. The negotiations with the IRA were not then, any more than they were in the 1990s, about British withdrawal. That the Provisionals quite sincerely thought that the British were on the verge of being bombed out of Ireland is more then enough evidence that they were delusional.

The early to mid 1970s were also the period of “tit for tat” murders of civilians, so I don’t think there’s anything remotely unfair about describing the people ordering many of those killings as bloodthirsty.

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WorldbyStorm - October 31, 2010

It most certainly isn’t laughable. Captain Rock is entirely correct. There was a strong perception amongst both non state and state actors North and South that Britain was very very shaky on remaining. I’ve provided links above to state documentation that validates this. And again, if that’s true for the state, then how on earth is it delusional for PIRA to believe at that point in time that such an event might not come to pass and believe that it was worth their while to continue to up the ante?

Whether the British were contemplating outright withdrawal or a phased transition is a different matter.

What though is clear and has been noted by many researchers is that the British have been keen to distance themselves from the North as time has progressed (despite rhetorical nonsense from Cameron) and in functional terms the GFA is merely the latest example of this. My own sense is that the British would, understandably, have liked shot of the problem from an early stage, but also, understandably, were curtailed by the simple existence of Unionism (none of which is to disregard a strong sentimental attachment, and a functional one too, in parts of the military and elites).

As for ‘tit for tat’ killings, there was an awful lot more going on during that period than you give credit.

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Tomas Gorman - November 1, 2010

Sometimes it’s okay to stop digging Mark.

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44. neilcaff - October 31, 2010

“There was a strong perception amongst both non state and state actors North and South that Britain was very very shaky on remaining.”

That says more about the continuing ability of
Old Albion to wrong foot gullible Irish nationalists than it does about the realities of a military campaign like that of PIRA’s in the 1970’s forcing a withdrawal. Didn’t negotiations between the IRA and the British precisely breakdown on the point of a withdrawal of British troops?

There’s no doubt Britain wanted shut of the 6 counties by the early 60’s. The problem for them was now that they had released the genie of intractable sectarian conflict it was extremely difficult for them to withdraw in a fashion that did not unleash disorder that could well spread to Scotland and into England itself via the huge Irish immigrant community. So like a lot of people faced with a difficult problem they simply ignored it and hoped it would go away (the IRA never had the monopoly of delusional thinking in the North).

Of course it did not and the rest is history as we know. This has only increased the desire of the British to withdraw. But for reasons of prestige and politics they were never going to withdraw under a hail of bullets from a terrorist group. That was delusional then and it’s even more delusional now.

We shouldn’t confuse the desire of the British to cut some deal that allows them to get rid of the financial black hole that is the 6 counties but still play a role in dominating Ireland economically (although that’s a bed that’s becoming increasingly crowded these days what with the EU, IMF, the US, bond markets and what have you) and being forced to do so on terms unfavourable to them by a couple of hundred gun men and bombers.

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WorldbyStorm - October 31, 2010

The point isn’t whether it was delusional in the sense that the British would have allowed such a circumstance, unlikely obviously, but not beyond the bounds of possiblity. The point is whether it was delusional for a PIRA member in 1974 to believe such a thing. I’m simply making the case that it was far from stupid or delusional to believe that at that point in the conflict a further push wouldn’t assist in dislodging the UK from NI. From the standpoint of 1974 we see that people with a lot less narrow vision held largely the same viewpoint, and the evidence is that this was also a view within some circles of the British political and military elite (could Wilson have done it? Again unlikely, and perhaps precisely the sort of thing to initiate a military coup in the UK. But then again, who can be entirely sure?).

Also worth noting that there would be many ways to skin the cat of British withdrawal which would fall well short of leaving under a hail of bullets – which by the way I agree with you, there was no chance.

As to the rest, my point isn’t that the UK wants necessarily a UI, I suspect the truth is that they don’t much care as long as British soldiers aren’t dying on the streets of Belfast or Derry, it’s more that the British are happy with a policy of benign and peaceful neglect and would pretty much stomach anything that that encompasses that from integration to independence. Whatever works. I wouldn’t think they’re hugely pushed by ‘dominance’ of Ireland, as you say, there’s bigger fish operating here than them. By a long shot.

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45. sonofstan - October 31, 2010

the co-thinkers of the Socialist Party in South Africa, the Marxist Workers Tendency

Co-thinking? is that difficult, or can anyone learn it?

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Budapestkick - October 31, 2010

Cheap shot, falling far short of wit.

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sonofstan - October 31, 2010

Maybe, but people on your side haven’t even been bothering with the pretense of wit recently: comparing a perfectly respectable point made by a frequent and sane commentator to being attacked by someone publicly masturbating wasn’t funny either, and was much more offensive than anything I’ve done here.

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Budapestkick - October 31, 2010

I can only account for myself but these debates (well, this same debate over and over again) does tend to get heated. It’s not surprising that people who would otherwise be quite polite and reasonable may occasionally go a bit below the belt (this goes for both sides)

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Mark P - October 31, 2010

Sonofstan:

I think if you look at the thread concerned that you will find the “It’s like being lectured on decorum by a man masturbating in the street” comment was in direct response to an unprovoked diatribe from said “frequent and sane” poster which consisted centrally of personal insults of the “nut”, “one sided bigot” variety.

Maybe we differ on this, but personally I tend to feel released from the constraints of civility around about the time someone starts offering an unasked for amateur psychoanalysis, liberally seasoned with insults.

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Mark P - November 1, 2010

And on the subject of justified rudeness, although otherwise unconnected to this thread, the comments section at the link below had me nearly crying with laughter:

http://dublinopinion.com/2010/10/30/e420-billion-of-gas-off-the-west-coast-of-ireland-while-fianna-fail-speeds-us-towards-the-imf/#comment-75087

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46. yourcousin - October 31, 2010

Wow, I just bothered to read the entire comments section. I feel like John Candy did after he ate the giant steak in “The Great Outdoors”, somewhat proud because I actually did it, but guilty at the same time. Not to mention an overwhelming sense of pointlessness in the endeavor.

Kudos to the usual folks for sane, well thought out arguments that kept things above the belt and focused on the issues. Shame on the usual nutters spewing crap (though I’m not mentioning names as that would lower the level of debate).

A few small points. Sos in comment 45 was witty. neilcaff is wrong to write,

“The various resistances in Western Europe and the urbanized areas of Eastern Europe (Czechoslovakia, Hungary) were never more than an adjunct to the Allied armies who supplied them with ample money, weapons, intelligence and logistics. To even compare them for a moment to the PIRA displays a laughable historical ignorance”

I don’t always mean to be a one trick pony, but how we can go over and over the same ground and still have people spew utter non sense is disheartening. Suffice to say I am calling bullshit on his claims about Eastern European uprisings as a Western sponsored endeavor.

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neilcaff - November 1, 2010

I didn’t say that. Of course the resistances sprung up from indigenous sources as a reaction to German occupation. My point was that you can’t use the example of the European Resistance as a historical parallel for the possibility of a group like the PIRA militarily defeating a modern armed state like the UK.

It’s a historical fact that the various resistances that sprung up around Europe were massively supported by the Allied powers in various different ways. Even the Yugoslav communists were getting bags of cash and weapons from the British. The closest the PIRA came to that sort of support was a few boatloads of guns from Libya.

However my main point is that with the exception of Yugoslavia and arguably Greece every single one of the countries of occupied Europe were liberated from the Germans by Allied armies (although I’m sure many would take a dim view of using the word “liberated” in relation to Soviet armies in Eastern Europe)although the resistances did play an important role in intelligence gathering and sabotage. Even the victory of the Partisans in Yugoslavia has to be seen in the context of the advancing Red Army.

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yourcousin - November 3, 2010

neilcaff,
What I took from your paragraph was that by your explicit citation of Hungary and Czechoslovakia was that the various resistance movements that culminated with uprisings against Soviet rule were posible due to Western support. If I was wrong then I apologize.

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neilcaff - November 3, 2010

No need to apologise, in the cool light of day I can see that would be a reasonable inference to draw.

I think there were big differences between the resistance in Hungary and Czechoslovakia and say Yugoslavia because the former were more developed countries with a bigger working class which relates to the campaign of the IRA in the 1970’s but I don’t think I made the point very well.

Let’s draw a line under this thread and never speak of it again 🙂

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47. DublinDilettante - November 1, 2010

So, from the thrust of this thread, I assume the ULA is mostly going to be about liberating extra-territorial locales by force of arms? I might have to get a note for that bit.

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sonofstan - November 1, 2010

‘Is this the ULA, or is this the ….’

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anarchaeologist - November 1, 2010

It’s just another country…’

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48. HAL - November 1, 2010

Has any of these factions dropped a candidate in order to join.Is this not just a mutually agreable electoral pact that leaves out hard decisions and not really an alliance.As it stands, Fake is all over it.I hope eirigi SF WP isn don’t join, then the Holy trinity can once again be seen as one.

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49. Jock McPeake - November 1, 2010

I don’t know how many of the killings in 1974 Sean Stephenson ordered, because he was out of the provo leadership by then. A lot of the killings in Belfast were ordered by local o/cs, in response to other things. I presume they never rang Dublin to ask permission. I can think of one case where two young protestants were shop dead at a garage, that happened because a young catholic girl was shot at a garage the day before. The local leadership in Belfast would have been responsible, but even they might not have been asked by the ones you did it.
By the way, left wing unity is a great idea.

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50. mervyncrawford - November 1, 2010

For those moving to the left as an answer to the threats posed by world capitalism may I refer you to Leon Trotsky’s writings on the United Front, and the Popular Front:
http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1936/whitherfrance/ch03.htm
“Committees Of Action –
Not People’s Front”
This being but one exaample.

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51. mervyncrawford - November 1, 2010

‘Left’ alliances are often vehicles to blur the issues, behind something apparently progressive.

Are trade unions a wing of management, protectors of the capitalist system? Should people set up independent defence organisations in opposition to the unions? What are the political stands of the SWP, the Socialist party, Bree and the Tipperary WUG?

“New Anti-capitalist Party covers for union betrayal of French oil strike”
http://www.wsws.org/articles/2010/nov2010/fran-n01.shtml

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52. Jim Monaghan - November 1, 2010

Mervyn
Many on this list read and are familiar with Trotskys writings on the differences between a UF and a PF. The point of being anti coalition with bourgeois parties is an aspect of being opposed to Popular Fronts. Perhaps you could move form making abstract points and dicuss the rela movement of left forves in Ireland.
Right having dealt with that.
This is not a perfect front, it is just a step in the right direction.It is a compromise between what 4 seperate orgs. who have small mass bases in the working class. They come from different directions and have different analyses of the direction and motive forces in the Irish struggle. There are a lot of people and a few groups that in my opinion could be included. Hopefully this will happen. Down the line there are a lot of necessary debates to be had which will hopefully clarify the road ahead. I hope that amongst pother gains an athmosphere for fraternal deabte will emerge.
It is based on a minimum program and it has to avoid being labelled the front of ….( I am sure the bourgeois papers will try ridicule and use anything that smells of stupidity to attack).
The workingclass will now have a opportunity to at least see an alternative that sees not poor people suffer for this depression but sees the suffering directed at the class that caused the depression.
It is ok to be a sceptic about one or all of the founders but being cynical is not a correct response.A brake on manouvring will emerge if real forces gather around teh front. Only totally hardened sectarians want to be seen as petty.

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53. mervyncrawford - November 1, 2010

Jim Monaghan

Sectarian is a word often used by cynics to malign the struggle for principle and clarity. This struggle for clarity being itself motivated by need to overthrow the capitalist system. There will be some who read this site and other such sites who are actually moving left.

I wish to help them avoid the traps set by the ‘lefts’ who have no wish at all to see the end of capitalism; and who are moving to the right to cover for the various labour apparatuses that are working day and night to try and keep the working class away from independent class action; from revoloutionary socialism.

Hence my reference to Trotsky’s vital writings on the difference between the principled United Front and the deadly trap of the Popular Front. One example of his work on this is given above.

Unlike you Mr Monaghan I am interested in communicating with those who are seeking an answer to the world crisis; not in chatting cosily with smug ‘lefts’ who only reserve their bile and bitter hatred for those whp actually raise the issues facing the world’s people.

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LeftAtTheCross - November 1, 2010

Just in defence of Jim’s contribution here, I’ve never read anything from him here that could be construed as bile or tinged in the least with left sectarianism. His contribution is balanced, informed, personal, and encourages discussion.

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Ramzi Nohra - November 3, 2010

seconded, fwiw

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54. Garibaldy - November 1, 2010

I missed most of the debate on the topic itself, but seeing as the question was asked a couple of times, just a few quick points (and I speak here for myself, while describing WP attitudes).

The Workers’ Party is committed to increasing left cooperation as far as possible, as can be seen in the revamping of LookLeft as a vehicle for a broad left, in its participation in co-operative ventures such as the campaigns against water charges and the cuts in the north and the type of activities outlined by Budapestkick above in the likes of Cork, and elsewhere. I think that there will be a meeting in the next few days of the broad left in Dublin that The WP will be attending for example. The WP has been both calling for and working to develop greater left cooperation for some time, inviting speakers from other left groups to attend and speak at the Northern Regional Conference for example. The WP has been stressing the need for greater cooperation both north and south as the elections loom in both places in the next year or so.

The WP was not invited to take part in these talks, but would of course have attended them had it been invited to do so. It is up to those involved to explain why The WP and other groups were not invited. Obviously The WP can’t do so. Certainly The WP has been cooperating with many of those involved in other initiatives, and we will continue to do so.

I have no idea if there will be an approach from this alliance seeking the involvement of other groups. Again, that is a matter for those involved to explain.

The WP continues to be willing to act to increase left cooperation north and south, in a principled and comradely fashion.

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55. Jim Monaghan - November 1, 2010

Based on what Garibaldi has just posted I for one see no reason why the WP should not be invited to participate.

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Budapestkick - November 1, 2010

I think it’s likely they will. The limited number of participants at the initial conference suggests to me that their exclusion has little to do with objections to their presence and a lot more to do with the difficulty of reaching any agreement between even 4 left organisations without others entering the maelstrom. It’s obviously a slow process but I would hope that the WP and perhaps some independent lefts would be part of this project.

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Pope Epopt - November 3, 2010

As an independent ecocommunist I would certainly be more comfortable with this initiative if the WP were involved.

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56. Alan Davis - November 3, 2010

While it may not be posed immediately with the creation of the ULA, the dangers of some form of the popular frontism that Mervyn alludes to has got to be a real danger in the Irish context given the social weight of populist ideas.

If the ULA was even moderately successful then there is every chance this issue could become very concrete – either in the form of Sinn Fein or potentially a new bourgeois populist formation.

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57. Alan Davis - November 3, 2010

In this context it should be remembered that the SP are quite happy to be part of the GUE/NGL popular frontist electoral bloc.

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Budapestkick - November 3, 2010

GUE / NGL is a technical grouping which requires no political committments from the SP(much like we had when Joe was in the Dáil). Having said that, our involvement with it has allowed us to a great deal particularly with regards to Tamil rights in Sri Lanka, funding the anti-Lisbon campaign and campaigning against the dictatorship in Kazakhstan (See jowhiggins.eu for more info). Calling it a popular front is silly. It’s an alliance of convenience among many different left of centre groups and nothing more.

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58. Alan Davis - November 3, 2010

Hmmm – no political commitments?

So there wouldn’t be any joint resolutions, common platforms and political publications or anything like that…

but a quick browse of the GUE/NGL web site seems to indicate otherwise.

Take a look at the extensive “Policy” pages and the joint publications like “Another Voice” – http://www.guengl.eu/upload//www%20EN%281%29.pdf or the jointly agreed programme for resisting the effects of the economic crisis – http://www.guengl.eu/upload//Financial%20EN%281%29.pdf)

Now words and phrases can mean different things to different people but your “alliance of convenience among many different left of centre groups” is clearly more than just a “technical grouping”. “Technical groupings” do not publish this amount, or kind, of joint policy statements!

Certainly it would seem to be a very similar political framework to what is being proposed with the ULA electoral bloc here in Ireland.

Now maybe you have a slightly different definition of the phrase “popular front” from me but it is hardly “silly” to call this cross-class parliamentary bloc, that puts out joint propaganda on a wide range of political issues, a popular front.

Unless of course you consider Sinn Fein to be a working class party…

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Budapestkick - November 3, 2010

Actually I do consider Sinn Féin to be a working-class party in terms of their base though right-wing and neo-liberal in their policies.

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Alan Davis - November 3, 2010

Well that does change things then.

If indeed Sinn Fein are a social democratic workers party of some kind then any talk of popular fronts is obviously incorrect.

However for myself I certainly don’t see them as a working class party and that certainly isn’t the understanding of the political nature of Sinn Fein that I have got in informal conversations with SP members in Cork either.

And that would also seem to be in accord with the official view of the SP, as indicated by this description of SF’s political nature:

“Sinn Fein has grown significantly in the last years. The ending of the IRA’s military campaign was crucial in opening up the prospects for it to grow electorally and in terms of membership. They are still seen by many as anti establishment, although the illusions that they are a radical force have diminished compared to a couple of years ago. Some members may have left wing views but they are a small minority. In fact notwithstanding their public image, Sinn Fein has also moved significantly to the right, accepted capitalism and organised privatisation when in the Northern Executive. They are not rooted in the labour and trade union movement or in the working class tradition. They recently gave prominence to their celebration of the 100th Anniversary of their founding by the reactionary Arthur Griffith. Despite their posturing, Sinn Fein is a right wing, nationalist party and are incapable of representing or assisting the working class in becoming organised on a left basis.”
http://www.socialistparty.net/pub/pages/bintaxdoc05/8.htm

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Budapestkick - November 3, 2010

I never described them as a social-democratic worker’s party of any description. I agree entirely with the party statement below. I simply said that their base (electorally and to some extent their membership) is working-class (which could have been said even of FF for much of the 20th century). This is obvious when you look at where their candidates in Cork have a support base (Jonathan in Cork NW, Tommy Gould in Blackpool, their councillor in Youghal etc.) To me that simply means there’s more of an onus on the genuine left to smash the illusions that exist in SF and to do it skillfully, perhaps even winning over some of their genuinely left members (which are, I admit, in short supply) in the process. The Worker’s Party significantly were able to win away much of the Dublin working-class from FF during the 1980s for example. This could be repeated on a national scale.

Essentially the contradiction between a right-wing middle-class leadership and a working-class base should be exploited to the benefit of socialist organisations. Simply pigeon-holing parties into working-class or middle-class without taking into account the complexities of their base and so on is extremely weak analysis.

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59. WorldbyStorm - November 3, 2010

I don’t know, I think SF fill the criteria of a partially social democratic formation fairly clearly at least in terms of their programme. In the context of the Dáil they’re unequivocally the most leftwing formation. Their latest policy on the economy could only be described as left of centre and recognisably social democratic.

That said they’re a mixed bag in terms of membership with individuals of right left and centre.

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60. Alan Davis - November 3, 2010

Budapestkick, let me get this right.

You accept that it is accurate to describe Sinn Fein as “not rooted in the labour and trade union movement or in the working class tradition” and “is a right wing, nationalist party and are incapable of representing or assisting the working class in becoming organised on a left basis”

But you deny that the SP’s particiaption in a parliamentary bloc with this party amounts to a popular front because, despite this very clear description of SF as NOT being a working class party, it actually IS a working class party “in terms of its base”.

At first glance it would seem you are arguing that Sinn Fein is some kind of bizarre cross-class hybrid party.

But then we have your comment that it is supposedly “extremely weak analysis” to “pigeon-hole” political parties on a class basis.

I think you might find that this idea represents a fairly major departure from the political tradition of Marxism which has had no trouble in “pigeon-holing parties on a class basis.

Indeed the whole conception of the popular front is premised on recognising the distinction between proletarian and bourgeois parties. And why would the Marxist tradition make such a big deal of working class independence if it was “extremely weak analysis” to make these distinctions?

This muddle gets even more murky when we look at your direct analogy between Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail as regards the make-up of their base, and therefore the their class nature in some way.

Are you really saying, as the logic of your argument seems to imply, that “for much of the 20th Century” it would have been wrong to “pigeon-hole” FF as a bourgeois party? That it would therefore have been ok to have participated in a political bloc with FF?

But to get back to the discussion at hand. Remember you first tried the “its just a technical bloc” defence and when my simple reference to the GUE/NGL web site exploded that myth you moved onto this new explanation to explain why the SP’s political bloc with Sinn Fein isn’t popular frontist.

It seems pretty clear to me that this is all just an attempt to generate a handy get-out clause against any accusation of popular frontism when you participate in a political bloc with what you yourself accept is a “right wing nationalist” party that is “not rooted in the labour and trade union movement or in the working class tradition”.

To paraphrase your argument as I understand it – its ok to be in what traditionally would have been understood as a popular frontist bloc so long as it is being done “skillfully” to get access to the working class base of the bourgeois party in the bloc.

Fair enough if you think that I guess but please have the political honesty to recognise what you are arguing and don’t try to pretend that this has anything to do with the politics of revolutionary Marxism.

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LeftAtTheCross - November 3, 2010

Message to Mark P: sic

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Mark P - November 3, 2010

LATC, I don’t argue with Sparts unless I’m (a) drunk or (b) looking for entertainment.

Alan is Ireland’s representative of the International Bolshevik Tendency, a splinter group from the Sparts with essentially identical politics but much better manners.

On this, as on much else, he is very far off-base indeed, misunderstanding the nature of the GUE/NGL (which requires zero in the way of political commitment or agreement) and more particularly the possibility of an SP/SF alliance emerging (which is one of those “cold day in hell” things). However he is a very nice man and having him commenting here regularly would certainly add to the fun.

We haven’t had a real Spart before, although I suppose Mervyn, a supporter of a Healyite splinter group called the ICFI, is almost as good.

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CMK - November 3, 2010

‘Popular Frontist’, ‘Popular Frontism’?? What language is this? What year is it? 2010 or 1937?

Who gives a f**king s***e about the SP & SF and the GUE/NGL? And what their common membership of it does or does not mean?

The working class here is on its knees and the space (always small) within which socialist ideas can be articulated is vanishing by the day. The trade union leaders are sharpening the knifes which they’ll use to stab workers’ resistance in the back; the state is gearing up for some serious repression, as today’s protests shows.

This new grouping might create some narrow space for socialist perspectives and solutions to the crisis to be articulated, particularly if it wins a few Dail seats.

If it breaks up over sectarian nit-picking and hair splitting all of the constituent parties and groups will suffer and what little chance of putting a socialist left position forward, will have evaporated and the political margins will be even thinner, if that happens.

There are people out there who will be receptive to ideas from the socialist left and ULA, but if people see a swarm of cantankerous lefties arguing over whose analysis of the Second International was ‘correct’, they’ll just drift away.

I personally have real political difficulties with some of the groups in the ULA. But the differences between them don’t and won’t matter a damn to the working class. These should not be suppressed or ignored, but anyone serious about building a socialist alternative needs to realise that they are irrelevant at this point in time. The alliance’s capacity to mount a fightback and resistance, which will by its nature be limited and possibly symbolic, are what matters.

I’ll grant that you probably have a much firmer grasp of marxism than I have and a deep knowledge of the splits and tendencies that have developed since the 1930’s. And I’ll fully accept that what I’ve just written may well be naive. Your analysis may well be vindicated by history, but do we really need, at this critical juncture for the Irish working class, to spend such time and effort flinging terms like ‘popular frontism’ at flawed but necessary political developments like the common SP and SF membership of the GUE/NGL?

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61. Alan Davis - November 4, 2010

I am all for unity in action to defend our class against the horrific attacks we face, as working class leftists across the political spectrum in Cork are well aware.

But this unity over immediate tactical questions does not mean that we should suspend critical debate on strategic questions – of which the struggle for working class independence is a critical one. (See http://www.bolshevik.org/Pamphlets/PRG/PFvsPR01.html for a discussion on the danger represented by popular frontism)

The unity of working class forces in united front campaigns against the attacks is a different thing from electoral alliances like the ULA. And in the Irish context where populist ideas, particularly of a nationalist form, are relatively strong the danger of popular frontism raising its ugly head in those alliances is very real.

The SP also recognise the political danger of popular frontism, at least in the abstract, which is why they are going to such lengths to pretend that the GUE/NGL doesn’t represent any such thing.

So we have Mark P. claiming that membership of the GUE/NGL “requires zero in the way of political commitment or agreement”.

But facts are stubborn things and as I pointed out to Budapestkick the GUE/NGL web site seems to indicate something quite different. Just take a look at the extensive “Policy” pages and the joint publications like “Another Voice” – http://www.guengl.eu/upload//www%20EN%281%29.pdf or the jointly agreed programme for resisting the effects of the economic crisis – http://www.guengl.eu/upload//Financial%20EN%281%29.pdf). Judge for yourself whether this amounts to “zero in the way of political commitment or agreement”.

As the SP is quite willing to participate in this parliamentary alliance at the EU level it is far from a “cold day in hell” thing to pose the possibility of a similar participation in a bloc with SF, or other bourgeois populist forces, on Irish soil.

I think the danger of popular frontism is a VERY BIG thing. To the extent that I am right about that then I have a responsibility to point out the political softness that the SP exhibit on this issue. (Have a look at the “Working-Class Independence vs. Popular Frontism” section of http://www.bolshevik.org/Pamphlets/CWI/militant_reformism.html to see an analysis of how this is part of the SP’s general political approach).

I don’t do this as any kind of pointless “nit-picking” exercise or as an excuse not to work with SP comrades in immediate campaigns against the attacks but because I really believe this is an important strategic question for the working class.

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Mark P - November 4, 2010

Alan,

Once more – joining the GUE/NGL does not entail any political commitment. You do not agree to advocate a common programme. You do not agree to common action. You do not agree to vote the same way in the European Parliament. You do not agree to electoral cooperation with other members.

That’s why the Pirate Party, which isn’t even nominally leftist in an SF manner, joined. It’s the only European Parliament group which allows access to the resources and facilities given to groups which does not impose a whip or political programme on its members.

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RepublicanSocialist1798 - November 4, 2010

The Pirate Party is a member of Greens–European Free Alliance, not the GUE/NGL.

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Mark P - November 4, 2010

On checking, it turns out that you are right! They were talking about joining the GUE/NGL and I’d assumed that They had. I stand corrected.

Not that it changes my point about the nature of the GUE/NGL.

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neilcaff - November 4, 2010

“But this unity over immediate tactical questions does not mean that we should suspend critical debate on strategic questions”

This is meaningless verbiage with no relation to the actual political practice of the SP towards SF.
I don’t know where you’ve been Alan but there certainly hasn’t been any suspending of critical debate by the SP members towards SF either on this blog or on our website. Being in the GUE/NGL has not stopped the SP in Northern Ireland playing a leading role in anti cuts campaigns that challenge decisions taken by SF Ministers.

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62. Alan Davis - November 4, 2010

Mark, you say that membership of the GUE/NGL means nothing politically but then by what process did the large array of policy papers and joint publications come into being?

Does the SP, as a member of the GUE/NGL, take any political responsibility for the content of those policy papers and joint publications?

SP posters for the European elections and the Lisbon referendum included a reference to membership of the GUE/NGL. Anyone visiting the GUE/NGL web site or seeing a hard copy of one of those documents would reasonably assume that there was therefore some link between the SP and the content of those documents.

Anyone reading the “Welcome” page on the “About” link of the GUE/NGL web site would reasonably assume that the SP was part of the “we” who share the reformist “vision” of the GUE/NGL.

The reality is that the GUE/NGL is a political bloc that presents a common programme for social change – I fail to see how anyone visiting the GUE/NGL web site could possibly think otherwise.

Sinn Fein are a part of this political bloc that presents a common programme along with the SP. It is a simple irrefutable fact that the SP are standing to together with SF in a political bloc on a common programme – are both part of a “we” who apparently share a common vision for changing society.

The political message this sends to any militant worker who views this material can only be that political unity between workers parties and petty-bourgeois parties is ok. That “we” can share a common vision on how to change society.

This is the core of the problem with class collaboration and this is true irrespective of whether the GUE/NGL has any internal discipline that can force members to vote a particular way or argue for any particular position.

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63. Jim Monaghan - November 4, 2010

Oh, we have a Spartish type. Perhaps he and Mervyn could get together. In the EU there are basically technical alliances. Good for speaking rights and a share of what ever funding is available. A long way from a popular or unpopular front.
So we get abstract debates on the SP, a mortal sin having been discovered. No debate onthe program of the ULA and its application of ant1 coalitionism which for me is the practical example of an United Front not a Popular Front which allows for support for bourgeois parties. For thsoe interested the bottom line for Trotskyists is no support for a governemnt which contains FF, Fg or PDs or anything like them.
But not for the sectarians the slkow work of building an alternative to class colaborationist parties like the Labour Party. Better to stand at the sidelines of struggle and nit pick and sneer.
They belong with Daniel De Leon in the dustbin of history.
Whatever disagreements I have with the SP, I respect their work in opposing the cuts and many other things. The SP lives in the real world of class struggle.

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64. Alan Davis - November 4, 2010

Jim, I live in the real world as well and I am all for the slow work of building a revolutionary alternative to the LP et al.

I am not “standing on the sidelines of struggle to nit pick and sneer” – where is your evidence for this claim? Ask any leftist political activist in Cork who is working side-by-side with me in united front campaigns whether that is the case or not.

For instance when I put up posters around Cork city for the recent SP initiated demonstration against the planned closure of the orthopedic hosptial was I “standing on the sidelines of struggle to nit pick and sneer”? Is my involvement in the organising committee for the Cork Anti-Water Tax campaign “standing on the sidelines of struggle to nit pick and sneer”? Is my ongoing activity in the Cork abortion rights campaign “standing on the sidelines of struggle to nit pick and sneer”? Was my participation in the campaign to keep a local swimming pool/leisure centre open “standing on the sidelines of struggle to nit pick and sneer”?

What you are actually complaining about is that I want to practice the basic Trotskyist approach of being completely committed to doing joint work in the immediate campaigns to defend our class against attacks while at the same time being critical of the positions and actions of other political tendencies on the wider strategic questions – in this case the question of working class independence.

It seems to me that the reason you are throwing such baseless accusations can only be because you disagree with my political conclusions. That is of course your right but it does not justify trying to discredit me as a working class activist whose arguments shouldn’t be taken seriously – that is closer to the politics of Stalinism than Trotskyism. I guess this might work on the internet where people don’t know me and so perhaps might believe these slanders have some basis but in that real world you are so keen on things are a bit different.

And actually this IS a very real part of the discussion of the application of anti-coalitionism by the ULA because in the real world I live in there is a political bloc in the European parliament – and one that includes the SP and SF.

I think we can all agree that is pretty unlikely that FF or FG would be interested in participating in a bloc with the ULA no matter how popular it became. However the question of Sinn Fein’s potential participation in a ULA that was mobilising tens of thousands of people would be a very real question. Certainly if the ULA was to get 10 or so TDs then the question of a parliamentary bloc/coalition with Sinn Fein would be very definitely posed.

Given their political history it is likely that the SWP would have no problem accepting this. On the other hand the SP rigorously claim that they would be opposed to any such bloc.

That is a good declaration of intent by the SP but I don’t think it is unreasonable, or abstract, to have a look at their actual practice in this area. And that surely includes an assessment of the GUE/NGL parliamentary bloc which, while not being a governmental coalition, does have some political similarities.

I don’t doubt that the motivation for this political bloc is largely for the reasons you and Mark outline but that doesn’t change the reality of what it concretely has become – just look at the GUE/NGL web site. Does that look like a political bloc or not? Does it issue joint political propaganda or not? Does it talk about a “we” who share a common vision or not?

The SP, and its defenders, say all the joint policy papers and programmatic publications are completely irrelevant and it is purely a technical arrangement – I remain unconvinced.

Perhaps this is because you think the ideas of popular frontism only become a problem when there is a formal governmental coalition arrangement. I disagree. Part of the process leading towards the acceptance of such formal governmental coalitions by the wider workers movement is the spreading of the idea that these kind of cross-class political blocs, even organisationally weak ones like the GUE/NGL, are ok. If there is to be any hope of politically defeating the concrete creation of a full-blown popular front it will only have been on the basis of inculcating ourselves with the idea that working class independence must be part of our political DNA. And you don’t do that by saying that political blocs like the GUE/NGL are ok because they are organisationally weak.

A popular front will be very popular (the hint is in the name) and there will be huge pressure to support, and participate in, it. If the workers movement has trained itself that class collaboration is not really a problem when it concretely manifests itself in minor cases like the GUE/NGL (and perhaps in ULA 2.0) then the chances of standing against that tide when it is posed in a major way will be that much harder.

As an aside it is actually quite hard to debate the concrete programme of the ULA when as far as I know that hasn’t been made public as yet – there is no web site or official publications that I have seen. I suspect I will have some criticisms of it for being limited to a reformist framework but we will wait and see.

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65. Alan Davis - November 4, 2010

Neil,

I’m not arguing that the SP have a position of political capitulation towards SF.

I am well aware of your criticisms of SF from my interactions with SP members in Cork. And I must confess I was therefore very surprised when I discovered that the SP is in the GUE/NGL political bloc along with SF.

This seems an obvious contradiction to me.

This participation in, what is to me, a popular frontist political bloc (albeit an organisational weak one) makes me doubt how serious your criticisms of SF are and whether you really would stand against a full-blown popular front if/when the question was concretely posed.

So I raise this doubt and the response is to say that the GUE/NGL is a purely technical bloc by pretending that the masses of common programmatic material produced by the GUE/NGL are of no importance.

I find this defence politically suspect for the reasons I outline in my previous post in reply to Jim.

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Budapestkick - November 4, 2010

Sigh, Alan, the fact is that without being in the GUE/NGL, the MEP position would be practically useless in terms of speakers etc. If being in a loose political bloc is the price to pay for having the opportunity to publicise the struggles against the dictatorships in Kazakhstan and Sri Lanka then I’m willing to pay it.

Incidentally, Alan, unlike say the Sparts, does do work on the ground in Cork and that should be noted.

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66. P.J. Larkin - November 4, 2010

It’s parish pump politics, isn’t it? The socialist Party sees Sinn Fein as a genuine rival for the working class vote, and is willing to put the party before the needs of the people. The idea of a coherent left-wing alliance with Sinn Fein – even a loose alliance – in Ireland scares the Socialists. The fact that it can accept ‘realpolitik’ in Brussels but not Dublin or Cork shows that, for the Socialists, needs of the party outweigh the needs of the working class.

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P.J. Larkin - November 4, 2010

One other small point. The hypocracy of the socialists, and of Mark P, on this site, is depressing. Mark P will cite bombs and murder with regard to Sinn Fein – as does Leo Varadker, mind – but bombs and murder mustn’t fly Ryanair because all that high moral ground is checked in at the customs desk of Chaleroi airport.

– “Have you anything to declare, Mr. Higgins?”

– “Only my double-standards.”

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WorldbyStorm - November 4, 2010

In fairness to Mark P he has a consistent line, and so indeed do the SP. It’s not one I agree with in relation to building alliances, but on that I think he and I agree to differ. And also in fairness to him and the SP I think their point isn’t so much re bombs and murder now, in the way some in FG like to bring that up, but rather that SF supported/was a part of an armed struggle that he/they regarded as entirely counterproductive as regards the interests of the working class. I think, and I don’t want to speak for him, that his critique would be much stronger today as regards the actions of SF from an ideological point of view, where he regards them as essentially no different to the LP, or FF or whatever. I disagree with him on that too, but his argument is entirely coherent and consistent.

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Mark P - November 4, 2010

No, PJ. It has nothing at all to do with electoral considerations.

In fact an alliance with Sinn Fein would probably be of electoral advantage to the Socialist Party at least in the short term. A transfer pact would probably improve the prospects of a number of SP (and SF) candidates (I’m thinking in particular of Cork North Central, where a very high transfer between Barry and O’Brien would put whoever is ahead in the running for the last seat).

It has to do with the fundamental principle of working class political independence. Sinn Fein are a populist party, appealing to the Irish “people” or “nation”. This is a perspective which inherently subordinates working class independence to a cross-class (imaginary) national interest.

They are not a part of the workers movement and therefore we have no interest in any kind of alliance with them, except on individual issues where our differing perspectives overlap. Where that does happen, we are entirely willing to work with them on that particular issue (e.g. Lisbon).

This isn’t an idea that the Socialist Party in Ireland invented at some point recently – it’s been a fundamental line of demarcation between Trotskyist and Stalinist politics since the 1930s. Stalinists argue in favour of a “popular front”, which is to say an alliance of the workers movement with allegedly “progressive” capitalists and populist forces. Rejecting this is one of the chief distinguishing features of Trotskyism.

Our attitude towards reformist forces within the socialist movement (like People Before Profit) is quite different. There alliances are a tactical issue.

By the way, the Socialist Party would have had no problem being in a technical group with SF in the Dail either, as long as that didn’t involve endorsing SF in any way, shape or form.

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67. Alan Davis - November 4, 2010

Budapestkick,

Well that is getting closer to the real meat of the disagreement.

You think the political cost of being in this organisationally loose political bloc is worth the platform it allows Joe to have in the Euro parliament.

I think it isn’t worth that cost for the reasons outlined in my reply to Jim. I always understood working class independence to be a principle within the Marxist tradition and would have thought that weighed more in the scales than some short-term advantage in a bourgeois parliament.

But maybe I’m wrong and when popular frontism raises its head in a more organisationally concrete way in Ireland, as I’m unfortunately pretty sure it will at some stage, the SP will indeed stand against the tide – we will have to see. But you can be sure I’ll be reminding you, in my annoying “nit-picking” way, of your promises when that time comes 🙂

going to have to wrack by brain to work out which Cork SPer might call themselves Budapestkick…

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68. Alan Davis - November 4, 2010

PJ,

The problem is that it wouldn’t be a “coherent left-wing alliance” if SF were participating because they aren’t a working class party.

The SP are pretty much right when they describe SF as a “right wing nationalist” party that is “not rooted in the labour and trade union movement or in the working class tradition”.

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P.J. Larkin - November 4, 2010

Oh come on, that’s just silly. Sinn Fein has no roots in the trade union movement, no roots in the working class tradition?

rightly or wrongly, Republicanism has been the dominant ideology within the Irish working class for generations. Fianna Fail’s base in working class areas was built upon it. anyone who thinks that Republicanism has not been a strong part of the Irish working class tradition is living in fantasy land. As socialist we may not like that, but it is ridiculous to pretend it does not exist, or that it does not have the roots it has.

and Sinn Fein’s recent pre-budget submission is a well-thought out and coherent left-wing document. It may not be as left as some people here might like it to be, but sinn Fein will get more votes in working class areas than the socialist Party, and when it all boils down to it, that’s the sticking point for the socialist Party. Parish-pump politics.

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69. Blissett - November 4, 2010

As a shinner I must say I always find such conversations absolutely fascinating. Generally I observe them with interest, and occasional amusement, and don’t comment, but I must ask what specifically is meant by ‘the working class tradition’? I accept that the failure to become more rooted in the Trade Union movement, I would suggest that some of that is down to a resentment among some older activists as to the attitudes of the TU movement to the conflict in the past, ‘where were they’ etc etc. The idea that the trade union movement werent at the forefront of defending working class people in those periods still persists, rightly or wrongly. I would further note that SP and SWP integration with trade unions is often (a) exaggerated and (b) not actually beneficial to them in electoral terms or indeed as far as I can see in raising class consciousness (none of which is to negate SFs failure in the same regard).

Also something that many of you may note with interest, for better or worse, is that I perceive that for a fair bulk of the activists under 25 that I know, the party other than SF that most would sympathise with is not labour, the SP, the SWP, or even Éirigí, rather the WP. No idea what that means, if anything, but I do think its interesting.

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P.J. Larkin - November 4, 2010

The earlier comment about no roots in the trade union movement is particularly funny – not just because there are sinn fein activists within the traqde union movement, but because of the high esteem the socialist party holds Irish trade unionism.

The argument seems to be: Irish trade union leaders are a bunch of conservative, right-wing, bourgeois sell-outs. And to make matters worse, Sinn Fein has never been a part of them.

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WorldbyStorm - November 4, 2010

Blissett, I share much of your fascination on this score. That said, it’s always interesting to hear others views.

That’s a range of interesting observations you make (as usual 🙂 ).

Intriguing point re the WP and SF. I wonder why. Is it the fact that they’re both Republican in some respect?

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70. Alan Davis - November 4, 2010

As far as I am aware SF doesn’t have a programme that is for the interests of the working class as a distinct class, instead it has a programme that is for the interests of the “Irish people” in a multi-class sense.

As such it is clearly not a socialist type of workers party.

It also doesn’t have links with, and represent the interests of, the trade union bureaucracy which means it is also not a reformist “bourgeois-workers” party of the LP sort.

This is not to dispute that illusions in nationalist populism is a powerful force in the Irish working class and that SF gets support from a layer of working people as a result – just that this doesn’t make it a working class, or even “left”, party in the sense that Marxists use the terms.

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P.J. Larkin - November 4, 2010

“As far as I am aware SF doesn’t have a programme that is for the interests of the working class as a distinct class, instead it has a programme that is for the interests of the “Irish people” in a multi-class sense.”

That is as far as I am aware as well. That’s why I said it has produced a left-wing pre-budget document. But thanks for the awareness.

“As such it is clearly not a socialist type of workers party.”

so…. that’s out of step with what I said about it being not a socialist party? Or is this just more awareness-raising?

“this doesn’t make it a working class, or even “left”, party in the sense that Marxists use the terms.”

Probably because it is not a Marxist party. But hey, again, thanks for the awareness.

In economic terms, it is left-wing. It is making left-wing arguments in public, on the airwaves, and gettiing slack for that.

Socialist Party response? Standing behind Fionnan Sheen decrying Sinn Fein as the enemy.

Even though they have working class support, their membership is drawn from the working class, they articulate the dominant ideological concepual framework of the Irish working class, nonetheless they are not OF the working class.

It is not enough to be from the working class, one must be of the working class.

This is the Mr. Miyagi school of Irish socialism – If we all break our ankles but give the nasty bully boy a free-standing kick to the head we’ll win the trophy.

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71. Alan Davis - November 4, 2010

So we agree that Sinn Fein is not a workers party. Why is this important?

Its one of the main reasons why working people can’t trust Sinn Fein’s supposed “left-wing” credentials. In the last general election they stood on a FF-lite pro-capitalist platform and in the north they are happily implementing pro-capitalist not pro-worker policies.

That being said I’ll stand side-by-side with Sinn Fein members if they are fighting back against the attacks of the government and the bosses in specific campaigns. But I won’t give one iota of political support to SF’s “left” pro-capitalist politics and I won’t support any electoral coalition or alliance they are part of.

The SP say more-or-less the same thing, as I understand it, but this stands in stark contradiction to what PJ rightly describes as their ‘realpolitik’ in Brussels.

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72. WorldbyStorm - November 4, 2010

Got to be honest, and your contribution is very much appreciated incidentally and its good to hear your perspective, but why can’t we trust SF any less than the workers parties (not naming any, but you know what I mean?).

I know I bang this drum a lot, but the situation in the North is different, and there the situation (and I very much take on board Mark P’s critique by the way that they seem overly enthusiastic, etc) demands a somewhat different response precisely because it’s sui generis.

But calling their platform FF-lite seems to me to overstate it. By any measure it was the most left wing platform short of the further left, and acknowledged as such. I’m glad to see that its shifted further left.

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73. Alan Davis - November 4, 2010

I don’t have the SF election leaflets in front of me but I distinctly remember the main thrust being against the domination of the Irish economy by the multi-nationals and calling for more support for Irish based businesses instead.

Populist nationalism can of course appear left at times as it taps into the prevailing consciousness of the masses. The political problem for revolutionary socialists like myself is that because it is not based on the idea of working class independence (in fact is hostile to the idea) it will necessarily betray the hopes and aspirations of working people that it has tapped into.

There is of course a truth to your comment about not being able to trust some workers’ organisations. But the discussion and debate I have with opportunist/reformist workers’ organisations and their supporters is of a fundamentally different kind from the discussion and debate I can have with populist nationalism.

A discussion with the SWP or SP, for instance, takes place within the context of a shared aim of working class liberation and it is a discussion about what is the best programme to get to that aim.

A discussion with SF (or any other “progressive” or liberal bourgeois force) is completely different as we don’t share the same aim, even in abstract terms. It is at best a discussion about how to prosecute an immediate and conjunctural campaign about a specific issue where there is a temporary overlap of interests.

I am not aware of your argument regarding the different situation in the North so I can’t comment on that.

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WorldbyStorm - November 4, 2010

I take your point re conversations. I guess my own view is simply what is most effective in solidifying whatever gains have been made and preventing any further losses. In that respect SF seem to me to be, along with a range of formations which you namecheck, part of the solution rather than the problem, though I can see why you would see that as an unlikely proposition given your perspective.

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74. Alan Davis - November 4, 2010

Yes – it is dependent on whether the project of socialist transformation of society, as opposed to a radical reform of capitalism, is part of your political perspective or not.

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WorldbyStorm - November 4, 2010

True to a degree, I don’t have a fixed viewpoint on this issue in tactical or strategic terms.

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75. HAL - November 4, 2010

Just had a quick look at the Sinn Fein on-line bookshop.Nothing on Marx, Engles,Trotsky or Stalin,and surprisingly found nothing on Connolly.
Maybe this is just for the Yank market.Once again all things to all men.

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Blissett - November 4, 2010

True im sure, but im not sure there would be much point when you can get them much cheaper elsewhere on the net. Most of the 70 odd books there are either An Phoblacht productions, or books specifically related to sf and the ira, and books unlikely to be found elsewhere. The books actually in the physical shop covers all sorts of topics such as all the above im sure, and lost revolution book, anarchist pamphlets and more.

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HAL - November 4, 2010

Fair point,it’s just that you would never know SF are socialist by looking at this site.I’m not attacking SF, I support the gist of their pre budget submissions but I do think they should get out of the closet a bit more.

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76. Blissett - November 4, 2010

Yes thats entirely true, I accept that, SF is too insular. I would also note that ‘it’s just that you would never know SF are socialist by looking at this site’ could easily be written about others in the ULA 🙂

http://www.peoplebeforeprofit.ie/search/node/socialism

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HAL - November 4, 2010

The ULA is simply voter management and that determines whos in.What I want to know is how come Trots never tell you what they really stand for in their leaflets etc.Maybe college members might discuss this but I never seen it on a leaflet dropped through my door and when I lived in blanch I got dozens over the years.So I think the closet is fairly well packed.

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dmfod - November 4, 2010

there’s a subtle clue if you look hard enough – right at the top where it says “Socialist Party”

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HAL - November 5, 2010

Jeez labour claim that, I mean Trotsky and the neverending revolution .Never once in ten years did I get an explanation or theoritical piece about Trotsky,Why’s that?.Talk about educating the working classes, I even went to a few public meetings, again the same.After a while you get the impression the working class are being used and lied to.There’s an inner cabal with all the secrets telling joe public what they want to hear.

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WorldbyStorm - November 5, 2010

Well perhaps, but two thoughts strike me. Were you ever a member of a formation from a Trotskyist background and if not how do you know precisely what their intentions are? Secondly the distance between state power and any formation of the further left is so far that surely it makes all of this pretty academic.

Anyhow, I’m no fan of the term ‘Trot’ when used dismissively.

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Mark P - November 5, 2010

HAL,

Are you seriously claiming that Socialist Party makes some kind of secret of its Trotskyism? Or never produces articles about Trotsky or Trotskyist theory?

http://www.google.ie/search?q=site%3Asocialistparty.net+trotsky&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-GB:official&client=firefox-a

As far as I can tell your complaint seems to amount to saying that nobody has yet dropped a copy of “Results and Prospects” through your door. Perhaps you could try reading the Socialist Party’s website, newspaper and magazine? You know, it’s publications.

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Budapestkick - November 5, 2010

Dearest Hal,

I’d love to knnow more about this ‘neverending revolution’ lark. It’s a concept quite new to me. If you want to find out more about Trotskyist concepts like Permanent Revolution, the transitional programme and so on, you oughtta check out this top secret article we, the secret cabal, put on our website:

http://www.socialistparty.net/component/content/article/70-socialism-a-marxism/466-70th-anniversary-of-the-assasination-of-leon-trotsky

Surprisingly enough we don’t mention Trotsky that often at public meetings, except for the odd time we actually put him on the bloody poster: http://yfrog.com/5r1917bj
You can see this as the workings of a secret cabal or merely reflective of the fact that at a public meeting about say, the saving of a hospital, mention of trotsky would be somewhat odd. Since you’ve been so disappointed HAL, by our failure to insert big chunks of Trotskyist theory into election leaflets, I highly recommend consulting the Marxist Internet Archive or some of these articles we secretly put up on our international website:

http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/4113

http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/4442

Now, I’m off to the secret mountain fortress for a branch meeting.

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77. Alan Davis - November 5, 2010

Actually not all “Trotskyists” are like that, some of us tell the truth, as we understand it, even when most people don’t agree with us, or at least don’t agree with all of our revolutionary conclusions:

For an attempt to apply that to the current Irish situation see http://www.bolshevik.org/Leaflets/Irish_crisis_09.html

Regarding Trotsky’s “Permanent Revolution” see http://www.bolshevik.org/Pamphlets/PRG/PRYT01.html

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WorldbyStorm - November 5, 2010

Fair point Alan.

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78. dmfod - November 5, 2010

HAL – you are really talking nonsense. The SP regularly holds public meetings about its socialist ideas e.g. about the Russian Revolution. The front of the theory section on the website has :

http://www.socialistparty.net/theory/530-can-a-socialist-revolution-be-peaceful

http://www.socialistparty.net/theory/473-new-introduction-to-the-transitional-programme

As for the Labour & socialism comment – The Socialist Party website has 473 hits for “socialism” – Labour has 50 – the first of which is about Joe Higgins!

http://www.google.ie/search?q=socialism+site%3Asocialistparty.net&hl=en&client=firefox-a&hs=ylx&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-GB%3Aofficial&num=10&lr=&ft=i&cr=&safe=off

http://www.google.ie/search?q=socialism+site%3Alabour.ie&hl=en&client=firefox-a&hs=mex&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-GB%3Aofficial&num=10&lr=&ft=i&cr=&safe=off

As a final point Alan could you link to Irish election leaflets from the International Bolshevik Tendency calling for your programme?

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HAL - November 5, 2010

Thanks thats cleared that up ,and I look forward to seeing some of this material on your next electoral leaflet drops.I still maintain 9 out of 10 SP voters never heard of Trotsky.

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Budapestkick - November 5, 2010

9 out of 10 SP voters haven’t heard of Trotsky. Being a Trotskyist organisation means applying Trotskyist methods to your politics, not going door to door with ‘The Revolution Betrayed’

Similarly, most SF voters haven’t heard of George Gilmore, nor most PD voters of Friedman.

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LeftAtTheCross - November 5, 2010

HAL, it’s a fair point but how many PD (or FF/FG) voters have heard of Friedman or whatever either? We all have agendas, we’re all trying to influence and win support, at whatever level, much of the theoretical basis is anorak stuff for people who are more interested in the immediate reality of the policies being proposed. No?

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HAL - November 5, 2010

Listen bringing up George Gilmore is a bit of a red herring,but I still maintain that the SP not mentioning Trotsky and yes even FF/FG/PD not mentioning Friedman is all part of the problem,maybe these ideas should be discussed more in school etc.But yes LATC I concede that most engage in this practice.

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79. Jim Monaghan - November 5, 2010

While Alan may do some work in Cork and best of luck on that my opinion is that the whole Spart tradition are nit pickers of a sectarian kind.Robertson may not be a Healy but he is not much better.The ULA is a compromise. This is what alliances are about. It explicitly opposes coalition. This is where there would be problems with parties that leave the door open to a coalition. This is a problem with SF and maybe other groups. That is why they should have to sign on the bottom line.
On demands. there needs to be demands that relate to the struggles and the current consciuosness. That for me is what transitional demands are about. The DeLeonite and SPGB tradition believe in just pure socialist demands.Connollys break form De Leon was a major step in his emergence as a real leader of the workingclass.
The creation of a visible force (albeit small)in the workers movement that is socialist and rejects coalition and reformism would be a huge step forward. One that works both in the electoral and trade union arenas.
There is a basis for that force. The votes got by Des Derwin and Kieran Allen in SIPTU electoins shows this.
In side this force a fraternal athmosphere would allow for further developments of program ( one example where Mark P and I disagree would be on the unfinished national struggle.)But let me say warts and all I respect and admire what the SP have achieved and hope they go on to achieve more. I do not see them as misleaders of the workers in spite of disagreements. What it does not need are Spart and IWG types preaching form ahigh.
The road to a revolution in Ireland has many pitfalls and history will surprise us all.I would say that there will be lots of cul de sacs. One false start was the Socialist Labour Party, which in retrospect I see as a tragedy.But I do see a necessity for a fraternal spirit if we are to move forward. I hope that one result of the ULA will be the easing of organisational rivalry and more United FGront work in say the unions and less of the creation of artifical fronts which pop up when the Central Committee feel the need to increase profile.
Wading through the swamp as Lenin put it can be difficult, avoiding being a lefter Labour Party ending up supporting coalitions on one hand and avoiding the monastic isolation of sects on the other.
A few views on United Fronts for those who like a bit of theory.
SWP viewpoint
http://www.isj.org.uk/index.php4?id=397&issue=117

Click to access themarxistparty8x11_z.pdf

The Fourth Internationals think version

http://intervention.posterous.com/the-united-front-the-transitional-programme-s

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80. Alan Davis - November 5, 2010

dmfod – sorry but there aren’t any IBT leaflets on Irish elections. Might be one for next year though…

Jim – in this discussion all I have been doing is raising my concerns over whether the SP’s stated commitment of opposition to political blocs with SF stands up given their participation in the GUE/NGL with SF – which looks like a political bloc to me.

Now you disagree with me about that but frankly I am no more “preaching from ahigh” than you are.

And once again we have your implication that I am an example of the “monastic isolation of sects” – an accusation already refuted by Budapestkick. For what purpose?

Your repeated use of this type of “argument” makes it pretty clear to me that you are really just keen to avoid political discussion with a critical thinker to your left.

It would seem that by “fraternal spirit” you mean some kind of political non-aggression pact where political concerns and differences are not allowed to be raised.

Whatever you might think of the veracity of my arguments such an approach is of no use to the workers’ movement. We need more debate and discussion on the way forward, not less.

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81. Alan Davis - November 5, 2010

Budapestkick,

You might be interested in having a look at this parallel discussion I’ve been having with Mark where a bit of accidental surfing found something which might indicate there is more to my claim that the GUE/NGL is more like a political alliance than you think:

http://liammacuaid.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/united-left-alliance-formed-in-ireland/#comment-24200

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82. Alan Davis - November 5, 2010

A brief comment on http://www.socialistparty.net/theory/530-can-a-socialist-revolution-be-peaceful

I would politely suggest that a reading of Lenin’s “State and Revolution” might be in order. The political conclusions Lenin actually drew from the experience of 1917 is quite a different one from the one ascribed to him by the Socialist Party.

“The suppression of the bourgeois state by the proletarian state is impossible without a violent revolution.”
– State and Revolution

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83. Alan Davis - November 5, 2010

I also note that http://www.socialistparty.net/theory/473-new-introduction-to-the-transitional-programme manages to somehow overlook the question of the state and the need to create our own workers’ militias, both to defend ourselves in campaigns for immediate demands but also to lay the basis for the revolutionary insurrection.

For a revolutionary alternative on the relevance of the TP see http://www.bolshevik.org/tp/IBT_TP_1_Introduction.html

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84. Alan Davis - November 5, 2010

Hal,

I’ve got to agree with Budapestkick & LeftAtTheCross.

The point of real politics isn’t to bombard people with historical references but to convince them by applying the method to the current situation.

That being said, once people have been convinced then reference to the historical record can be useful in deepening their understanding.

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85. Fearful of the Coming Revolution of the ULA - November 5, 2010

Hmmm…the SWP don’t even have enough faith in their own policies to stand under their own banner.
Not a single nonaffiliated person would turn up to anything they organise so they need to hijack others events.

The socialists will prob get Higgins in, good man, wouldn’t mind seeing that. Other than that, not a hope.

One local Interdependent Cllr.

And the IBT giving out about Lab/SF too.
There’s what, one of ye in the country?

I’m sure SF/Lab are quaking.

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Alan Davis - November 5, 2010

There is indeed only one of me, I do what I can like all of us.

Actually I think the SP have a decent shout of getting Mick Barry elected here in Cork.

But more importantly than the number of bums on seats in Dáil Éireann the election period will open up a process of political discussion and debate that will give more space for the ideas of revolutionary socialism to be presented to a wider layer of working people than is usually the case.

If that can combine with some real class struggle on the streets and in workplaces free from the restraining hands of the trade union leaders then there is a chance for something positive to develop.

It is the spreading of those ideas and actions of working class revolutionary struggle that might make FF/FG/LP/SF start quaking…

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Budapestkick - November 5, 2010

Yes, Clare Daly also has a good chance (arguably better than Mick does)

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86. Jim Monaghan - November 5, 2010

“But more importantly than the number of bums on seats in Dáil Éireann the election period will open up a process of political discussion and debate that will give more space for the ideas of revolutionary socialism to be presented to a wider layer of working people than is usually the case.”

This can really only occur if there is a real left slate that is big enough to be heard over the bourgeois clamour.
Oh did anyone attend this in Limerick.

http://liammacuaid.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/rebirth-of-a-marxist-tradition-in-irish-universities/

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Alan Davis - November 5, 2010

Well the two things are related of course but to the extent that one should be emphasised I would strongly argue that it should be the building of class struggle organisations.

If the central emphasis is put on the parliamentary side of things then there is a great danger the “don’t be too radical or it will hurt our chances of being elected” argument will rear its ugly head. When that happens any socialist TDs who do get elected will find it very hard to break free from that mind-set and the “we can’t break our election mandate” mantra.

I find that the emphasis given to these two aspects during the elections to bourgeois parliaments tends to be a fairly accurate reflection of where socialists stand on the reform-revolution spectrum.

My wife, Anne, was at the Limerick conference she said it was pretty interesting with a good fraternal atmosphere. I see John McAnulty (Socialist Democracy) has done a report on it, though I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. I would have been there as well but was over in London at the Anarchist Book Fair.

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Jolly Red Giant - November 8, 2010

It is not surprising that the Limerick conference was ‘fraternal’ – it was primarily an academic exercise. It involved many contributors from left organisations, but it was an academic exercise nonetheless. You would hardly expect lefts to start tearing strips off one another in the hallowed halls of UL.

As for McNulty’s report – unfortunately it was far from balanced. His interpretation of Clare Daly’s address was way off the mark (people can judge themselves shortly as the address will be available online in video format). McNulty also appears to have completely misunderstood the entire basis of Dominic Haugh’s paper. And his swipe at Kieran Allen about partnership has a certain irony. DR O’Connor Lysaght (a member of Socialist Democracy) argued that socialists should support ‘partnership’ on the basis that the trade union movement was completely incapable of defending workers and that, as a result, jobs, wages and conditions would be decimated during a process of free collective bargaining.

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87. Fearful of the Coming Revolution of the ULA - November 6, 2010

In fairness I expect Mick to put up a good showing, I actually have a lot of time for him and will transfer that way come election time. We could do a lot worse than have him as our rep in the Dáil. I honestly don’t believe he’d get it but I’d be quite happy for him to.

To be honest, the idea of a united left appeals to me. I just think you are doing yourselves more harm than good by putting yourselves on a platform with the SWP.

The campaign as PBP to deceive people into voting for them, it’s clear and simple.

More so than this they regularly act in a dishonest manner as can be seen by the hijacking of the USI march this week. They can argue they took a revolutionary stance or some such but they simply mislaid the facts. I heard one of them quoted that they were invited along to give students an opportunity to voice their disappointment with the USI…why were all these disaffected students at a USI march? Where were all these disaffected students over the last three years where students in UCC voted to remain affiliated?

I’ve been involved in united campaigns before and to be honest the SWP hindered every single decision and try to make it all about themselves, an example being bringing shitloads of SWP flags to what was agreed as a nonpartisan march. They pay lip service to being the grouping that offer every person the most say but infact only serve to enlarge their own ego.

I’d happily work Éirígí, SP, WP or the WSM among many others but to be honest, the next time I see the SWP at something I’ll probably just sit it out.

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88. Fearful of the Coming Revolution of the ULA - November 6, 2010

Oh and without getting way off topic, just in response to,

‘It is the spreading of those ideas and actions of working class revolutionary struggle that might make FF/FG/LP/SF start quaking’,

I’m all for revolutionary politics myself but coming from the International BOLSHEVIK Tendency? Bolshevism is simply Counter Revolutionary and, in essence, a form of Capitalism, try asking the people of Ukraine.

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89. Mark P - November 12, 2010

http://socialistparty.net/elections/537-united-left-alliance-to-challenge-at-general-election

United Left Alliance to challenge at general election

The newly established United Left Alliance, which will be publicly launched at a rally in the Ashling Hotel , Dublin on Friday 26 November, involves the Socialist Party, the People Before Profit Alliance, the South Tipperary Workers and Unemployed Action Group and the Independent Socialist group of Declan Bree in Sligo.

The ULA is a joint slate or alliance of candidates that will put forward a real left alternative in the general election and challenge the austerity and capitalist consensus amongst all the parties in the Dail, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, the Greens but also clearly including Labour and Sinn Fein.

The ULA flows from a process of discussions initiated some time ago by the Socialist Party. It is a necessary and principled attempt at serious co-operation between left groups and while we will have to see how it goes over the next months, the Socialist Party hopes that the ULA will be an important first step in the formation of a new mass party for working class people, based on socialist policies.

The ULA could possibly stand up to 20 candidates in the general election. This will include many who will seriously challenge to win TD positions, most obviously Seamus Healy in South Tipperary, Cllr Joan Collins in Dublin South Central, Richard Boyd Barrett in Dun Laoghaire, and clearly the Socialist Party will be going all out to try to get Joe Higgins MEP and Councillors Clare Daly and Mick Barry elected in Dublin North and Cork North Central respectively.

As of now ULA candidates will stand in five cities, with Declan Bree also standing in Sligo, Seamus O’Brien (PBPA/SWP) standing in Wexford and Cian Prendiville of the Socialist Party standing in Limerick.

In pushing for the establishment for a slate/alliance, the Socialist Party argued that it was very important to try to get a fraction of genuinely left TDs elected at the next opportunity. Given that this crisis will continue to wreck devastation for the foreseeable future and the likelihood that Labour will be in power putting the boot into working class people while ICTU sit idly by, three or four left TDs could become a very important focal point for organising struggle against austerity and for the launching of a new party of the working class to fill the political vacuum.

The outstanding role that Joe Higgins played in national politics when it was difficult for the left during the boom years is on the one hand a model, but on the other also shows the massive potential that will exist in this unprecedented crisis to use the Dail as platform.

The ULA was primarily established on the basis of agreement on a political programme, agreement on specific candidates that were credible as well as how other potential candidates could be agreed. There was an agreement on a democratic and consensual approach to decision making and establishing structures of the ULA.

In the initial discussions which only involved the Socialist Party and the PBPA, there was debate and disagreement between us, particularly with the SWP, on the issue of whether an alliance should explicitly advocate socialist policies and socialism as the solution to the crisis. The Socialist Party did not agree with the SWP’s view that socialist policies would put people off from voting for candidates or from getting involved in a left alliance.

We felt it was very unfortunate that this argument was being put forward at precisely the time when there is emerging, a new interest and need for socialist policies because this is a crisis of the capitalist system itself. We demonstrated that Joe Higgins got more than 50,000 votes while being one of the most identifiable socialists in the country with radical and socialist policies. Socialism was advocated in his leaflets that went into every home in Dublin.

This debate should continue on the left in a fraternal atmosphere as it is of crucial importance. We are partly in favour of building a new left party because the likes of Labour have sold-out. But why have parties like Labour sold-out?

The diminishing and ultimate collapse of any socialist outlook and perspective meant that Labour just succumbed to the pressure of the establishment. If a new left movement isn’t rooted in a socialist outlook that wants to break definitively with capitalism, it too will ultimately fail, regardless of whether it has TDs or councillors.

If the left believes that policies like taking over the wealth of society and using it in a planned and productive way are necessary to create jobs, then it makes sense to advocate them and try to win people to these ideas rather than obscure the solution.

We agree that the left must present its ideas skilfully but we also have a duty to tell people the truth and advocate socialist policies, regardless of the criticism from the establishment. This is because objectively they are the only policies that address and can overcome the reasons for the crisis. The fact that the majority of people don’t yet agree with that doesn’t mean we should obscure this necessity, quite the opposite. It shows the need to skilfully advocate why socialist policies are necessary. We hope that through fraternal discussion that the ULA becomes very confident that working class people and the young people now growing up in this crisis will see through spin and grasp the necessity to advocate an explicitly socialist alternative to the capitalist parties.

Even though there wasn’t agreement on the need for an explicitly socialist programme, the Socialist Party felt we should continue to try to establish an alliance as that would be a step forward for working class people. We fully support the programme that the ULA has agreed and it can be read on the Socialist Party’s website. But the Socialist Party, while advocating the ULA programme will also exercise its right to also put forward our own socialist programme in our own election material etc.

The Socialist Party also pushed that the ULA should be something that isn’t just geared towards existing groups. If it is to become something more, it needs to be open for any individual to get involved in it and to have a say. People can register to become a supporter and activist in the ULA, and hopefully the supporters register may be a step towards a membership if there is an interest in the challenge that the ULA is mounting in the months ahead. We would encourage anyone who wants to get involved to get in touch, or better still to come along to the ULA Launch Rally in the Ashling Hotel, Dublin on 26 November!

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90. Paul - January 17, 2011

Mark is it true that a whole host of Labour party people in Laois/Offaly have joined the ULA and are running a candidate under the ULA banner?

Are you happy having labour people (who left over selection of candidates – not policy) as part if ULA? Do you consider them socialist?

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Mark P - January 17, 2011

It is true that a bunch of Labour Party members left in Laois Offaly and are setting up a ULA group there.

I don’t know if they are socialists, not having spoken to them or having seen anything from them beyond their statement that they “oppose the current right wing political consensus both locally and nationally especially in relation to the IMF/EU deal, the banking crisis, cuts to public services and the levying of further taxes on the lower paid and those on social welfare.” That’s certainly something I can agree with, and it indicates a very substantial set of policy disagreements with Labour’s business as usual neo-liberalism.

I have no problem at all with FORMER Labour members being involved in the ULA. Joe Higgins is, after all, a former member of the Labour executive.

It is interesting that a sizeable group of people have left Labour to the left, albeit confined to one constituency. I’m a little surprised to find that there actually was a single constituency with twenty people in the Labour Party of left inclinations in the first place.

Not everyone in the United Left is a Marxist, and that was true before this group joined. As Alan’s quote from a People Before Profit candidate above certainly indicates.

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91. Alan Davis - January 17, 2011

This split in Offaly of 20 from the LP to the ULA was reported very positively at the Cork launch of the ULA last Wednesday.

It was also made clear at this meeting that you don’t have to be a self-describing socialist to be in the ULA.

And as this interview with the People Before Profit candidate for Cork North West, Anne Foley, explains the ULA version of “socialism” is pretty timid anyway:

“I feel the ULA has very common sense policies. When people think of socialists, they think of communism, which is not the case. There is nothing dramatic or revolutionary about our policies. A lot of countries have functioning social democracies, especially in Scandinavia. They have great health, transport and childcare systems. This is the direction we want to take, a direction this Government failed to follow.”
6 Jan 2011 – http://www.corkindependent.com/local-news/local-news/ula-to-launch-two-candidates-in-cork/

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92. Paul - January 17, 2011

Alan, Mark and others within the ULA have been quick to dismiss other socialists and socialist groupings because they dont subscribe to sp policies. How does that equate with these labour people being made so welcome considering their policies are even less socialist and further away from sp policy?

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Mark P - January 17, 2011

They aren’t joining the Socialist Party. If they were, they’d have to agree with the politics of the Socialist Party. They are joining the United Left Alliance, which does not have the same politics or the same requirements.

I’m not “dismissing other socialists” because they disagree with Socialist Party policies. There are plenty of socialists who disagree with some Socialist Party policies who I have a lot of respect for (and some I have more grudging respect for). I’m “dismissive” of some self-described socialists because of their own politics and actions.

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Paul - January 17, 2011

Who are those that you are dismissive of? Are you not dismissive of Labour party members because of their politics and actions?

Remember these people would still be in Labour if it wasnt for a row over selecting candidates.

They are the Jackie Healy Raes of Labour

There appears to be a huge huge double standard here

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Mark P - January 17, 2011

Paul,

Unless I’m very much mistaken, you are speaking from a position of complete ignorance as regards the politics of the Laois / Offaly people. And yet you feel comfortable describing them as “Jackie Healy Raes”.

They have signed up to the ULA statement, with its clear opposition to coalitionism and they have made a straightforward statement of their left views, which puts considerable distance between themselves and Labour.

I don’t know anything more about them than that, but I do think it’s reasonable to suggest that if they were really “Jackie Healy Raes” they’d be running a nearly apolitical sort of campaign and wouldn’t be risking votes by associating themselves with the socialist left. Believe it or not there isn’t a vast bank of existing socialist votes in Laois / Offaly to tap into by cunningly disguising yourself as a leftist.

And yes, I’m dismissive of Labour Party members who talk a bit left once in a while but stay in Labour. I’m not dismissive of people who put their money where their mouth is and actually leave the Labour Party to join or form a left organisation.

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Paul - January 17, 2011

The reference to Jackie Healy Rae relates to them leaving because of rows over selection of candidates and not policy. Those labour guys were more than happy to be labour members and wopuld remain labour members if the party nationally hadnt tried to impose a candidate on them

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Alan Davis - January 17, 2011

That is an obvious contradiction – don’t ask me to make any sense of it.

The cynic in me would argue that it can only be because the SP’s “socialism” is just verbal rhetoric and their concrete programme is actually just a (slightly?) left version of the LP’s social democratic reformism.

I personally think the ULA election platform is completely insufficient for the tasks that confront the working class in the coming period. Both in terms of resisting the immediate cuts and in building organisations capable of posing the question of power at some time in the, hopefully not too distant, future.

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Mark P - January 17, 2011

Sorry Alan, what’s “an obvious contradiction”?

I agree with you, by the way, that the ULA’s election platform is insufficient to build “organisations capable of posing the question of power”. The ULA will have to develop politically as well as organisationally. I don’t think anyone has said otherwise.

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Alan Davis - January 17, 2011

Mark – the contradiction for me (which I thought Paul was kind of referring to) is that the SP says it is necessary to end capitalism and replace it with socialism and yet presents the ULA reformist platform as being a “real alternative” to the capitalist crisis – which it clearly isn’t.

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Alan Davis - January 17, 2011

or at least it is not a “socialist” alternative except to the extent that this is the kind of reformist “socialism” that Ann Foley is talking about in that interview.

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Mark P - January 17, 2011

The Socialist Party does not present the ULA’s limited platform as a programme for the replacement of capitalism with socialism.

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Alan Davis - January 17, 2011

Not explicitly it is true but talking about it as a real alternative to the capitalist crisis is at best confusing to say the least.

If the ULA’s left-reformist platform is a real alternative to the capitalist crisis then why bother with revolutionary socialism?

Does the SP really believe that the ULA platform is a real alternative to the capitalist crisis? If not then why are you happy to present it as such?

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Mark P - January 17, 2011

I think perhaps you are confusing something being an alternative with it being an end goal. The ULA platform is a minimum programme of reforms, all of which we support. It is not the full socialist programme, and we do not present it as such.

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DublinDilettante - January 17, 2011

Alan, the second sentence of the ULA’s mission statement reads There can be no just or sustainable solution to the crisis based on the capitalist market.

An anti-capitalist stance certainly qualifies as a basis for a “real alternative”, compared to the avowedly pro-market positions of all other opposition formations. The substance of the ULA manifesto is a programme for resistance rather than transformation, but that’s a bridge that needs crossing, now more than ever.

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Alan Davis - January 18, 2011

Mark – do the SP candidates plan to stand on that “full socialist programme”?

If so what will be the key points that will differentiate it from the ULA’s “minimum programme of reforms”?

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93. Jim Monaghan - January 17, 2011

There is a whole corpus in the literature of the left about democratic demands and other demands that allow revolutionary socialists work with principled leftists who may not see the way ahead the same way.Sometimes more extreme language/rhetoric can be actually reformist allowing some to opt out of real struggle. I think of a certain debate on this site. But we are in a world where normal reformist demands (eg that bondholder investors take the hit that is a normal outcome of any investment) are deemed revolutionary. It is a topsy turvey world.
People only make revolutions when every other option is exhausted. A classic demand from the left is that Parties such as Labour and SF fulfill their promises to teh electiorate by excluding FG and FF from government and fulfilling their promises. Currently we have a situation where Labour mainly hides behind a so-called “real politic” where they say they cannot do anything because big brother Enda will not allow it.
ULA are saying to a degree this is a capitalist mess and capitalist should pay for it. The Irish People did not borrow this money and therefore the Irish People should not pay. Sounds reasonable to me.The question then arises is why Labour is scared of reasonable demands

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Chet Carter - January 17, 2011

Well said Jim. I really do not think the Irish working class are ready for a socialist revolution. That is not to denigrate the point that Alan is making. But it would be a real step forward if a significant body of TDs in the Dail could make the alternative case to neo liberalism.

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Alan Davis - January 18, 2011

I can only agree that it “would be a real step forward if a significant body of TDs in the Dail could make the alternative case to neo liberalism.”

The problem is that the platform of the ULA does not make “the” alternative case to neo liberalism.

It makes a left-reformist social democratic case.

I don’t think that is a real alternative because it doesn’t point in the necessary direction of building our own working class organisations that can carry out the hard class struggle against the bosses, their government and state apparatus that will be necessary to even defend where we are now against the cuts of the 4-year plan let alone make any positive moves towards our liberation.

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94. Paul - January 17, 2011

Jim how do you feel about these labour members joining and being welcomed in while others were excluded?

I know you said genuine opposition to coalition withe the right wing parties was the bottom line with you, how do these guys fit in? And I know they now say they oppose coalition but they were members of Labour until now (a pro-coalition party) and only left over selection of candidates not labour policy and actions.

In case of Finian McGrath you said you would rule him out even if he came out and opposed coalition as it is too recent that he was supporting it. Does this not apply in this case also? And if Labour are acceptable, why not the shinners also (not that I am promoting that idea by the way)?

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95. Jim Monaghan - January 17, 2011

Can I say that ULA is a front not a party. Hopefully it developes. If it does reasonably well say 3 plus and at least as important mobilises groups who want to fight back and who continue after the election to do so on the other fronts in the TUs and communities then it is a gain.
Then we can develope our analyises. Work on a programme.
There are formal positions but there is and it is important those who want to fight back. They may not be formally revolutionaries but the important thing is that they are fighters.I know of those who have revolutionary opinions but who lack the morale for a fight and those who may have social democratic opinions but who want to fight.
The SPGB ( and its more recent clones) on paper is more revolutionary than the ULA, but it is abstract and does not involve struggle.
I hope for a ULA which developes and where we can discuss ideas and the way forward without organisational rivalries and other petty concerns. In the end it is a question of what is to be done.
While we are not Gertmany 1932 there is one lesson we can garner.
Those who fight back are comrades. Those who use cynicism and sectarianism as an excuse are not.Revolution is not on the order of the day so most who want to fight back will see it as possible within the system. As the struggle progresses this will change.

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Alan Davis - January 18, 2011

Of course the members and supporters of the ULA will be among those who want to fight back and I look forward to working side-by-side with them in the various campaigns against the cuts.

But that is quite a different thing from the general social programme that socialists should be presenting to the wider working class. I think it is our responsibility to present a clear socialist vision of the future and tell the truth that there is no reformist road to that future. The ULA platform presents a utopian reformist fairy-tale and as such must be argued against by revolutionary socialists.

I’d also argue that there is no automatic development of political consciousness merely as a result of being involved in political activity. Over 100 years ago that great revolutionary thinker and leader Rosa Luxemburg recognised the fundamental divide between the politics of reform and revolution and the need for open political struggle for the ideas of revolution against the proponents of reformism and adaptation to the capitalist order. I have a side in that struggle for the politics of revolutionary socialism against the politics of parliamentary reformism.

That being said, to the extent that the ULA moves beyond being merely a parliamentary election pact on a reformist platform towards becoming a workers party with open discussion over what programme can really meet our interests as a class and is actively participating in the class struggle campaigns against the cuts then I will be involved in it.

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96. Paul - January 18, 2011

Does no-one think the fact that Dumpleton was more than happy to put himself forward to be a Labour candidate within the past month should ring alarm bells?

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97. Alan Davis - January 18, 2011

Well at the very least it might tend to undermine the talk about being a “principled left”

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98. Jim Monaghan - January 18, 2011

Of course the ULA will attract opportunists and those who turn into same. Each battle in the next few years will test everyone and every party.There is not a magic formaula that can predict the behaviours in advance. The only way is a clear set of principles and a determination to make them stick.
I suppose staying in a “marxist” monastery like the SPGB allows one to avoid the temptations of real life.
I will add that in 1914 the french marxist Guesde turned out to be pro war, while the “reformist Jaures paid with his life for his opposition to it.
Look at what people and parties do not just what they say. For now the battlefield is mainly an electoral one.

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99. Paul - January 18, 2011

Jim I asked you this already and I am not sure if you already answered me. If you have I apologise for asking again.

Are you concerned over these individuals standing on a ULA ticket in Laois/Offaly considering up until recent weeks they were more than happy to be running as part of the coalitionist Labour party?

You made a valid point against Finian McGrath joining in relation to his past (not present) support for coalition. Does this not apply in this case where these people, up until weeks ago were members of and wanted to run for a unashamedly pro-coalition party?

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Mark P - January 18, 2011

Ah, “concern trolling” by someone who isn’t in the slightest bit concerned.

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100. Jim Monaghan - January 18, 2011

If only the elft had an agreed purity police. They are anti-coalition and signed the programme and that has to do for now.
For the time being let us focus on the bourgeois enemy, FG and FF and those who would support them in government.

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Paul - January 18, 2011

So you would accept Finian McGrath as a ULA candidate now if he signed the programme?

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Mark P - January 18, 2011

Finian McGrath signing the programme and opposing coalition is about as likely as Brian Lenihan doing so.

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Paul - January 18, 2011

Mark if Finian did sign the programme (and theres as much chance of him doing so as a load of members from a pro-coalition centrist party in the midlands) would you personally welcome him as a ULA candidate?

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Mark P - January 18, 2011

Paul,

I have no particular desire to humour your concern trolling. There is no prospect of McGrath doing anything of the sort – it’s like asking me if I’d be opposed to little green men standing on Mars for the ULA.

You are evidently hostile to the United Left Alliance and it would do your arguments more justice if you made them openly rather than disguising them with weaselish “concern”.

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LeftAtTheCross - January 18, 2011

Mark P, I’m not hostile to the ULA and I do think it’s a reasonable question that’s being asked, maybe not specifically in the case of Finian McGrath as he’s an extreme example as you’ve rightly pointed out, but in the less extreme example of LP members and other independents (and did I see a reference on Facebook to someone in Donegal saying that FG members are interested in talking to the ULA?) there’s a valid question to be asked about the compromise that will be played out between principle and electoral success. Of course it’s not a case of the ULA doing a George Lee and attracting high profile candidates willy nilly, but nothing is ever black and white right?

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Mark P - January 18, 2011

LATC:

Aren’t you an ex-Labour man yourself? Should the Workers Party have told you to take a hike?

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LeftAtTheCross - January 18, 2011

Mark P, I have admitted publicly to the error of my ways in relation to joining Labour, political naivety and lack of awareness of local alternatives were the main factors, although it was a very short stay in fairness. But the WP wuld be right to be suspicious of people with social democrat credentials, wouldn’t they, given the events around the DL split. Of course I take your point that there’s no point in striving for absolute ideological purity when you’re trying to grow an organisation, and far be it from me to criticise the ULA in that regard. I suppose I’m just intrigued by how you’re dealing with the contradictions between the Left-sectarian past behaviour and the Realpolitik of the present.

On the FG one, have you read the comment on the ULA Facebook page?? Ok, there’s no stopping off the wall comments on FB from cropping up, but it’s a stretch to understand how someone might think ex-FG people would be welcome in the ULA. Or is it? That’s the question in play here.

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Mark P - January 18, 2011

LATC:

My point was simply that what matters is what people are saying now, rather than what they may have believed in the past. This is obviously more complicated and the past is a bigger deal when it comes to people with a record as a public representative, as opposed to rank and file members of some other party.

When it comes to someone like Catherine Connolly, for instance, her past as a Labour councillor is neither here nor there. What I’m interested in finding out is what she says nowadays, what she’s been doing since she left Labour, where she stands on cuts and coalitionism, etc.

I don’t think that there’s some big contradiction in this.

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Mark P - January 18, 2011

And on the Facebook thing – I can exclusively reveal that no groups of Fine Gael members are in negotiations with the ULA to form a Donegal branch!

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LeftAtTheCross - January 18, 2011

Mark P, I accept what you’re saying in terms of past and present, although I would find it less convincing to assess people on their stated positions rather than on their actions. As you point out, this is an easier call to make with public rep’s rather than rank and file. Not knowing the detail o fthe Laois defections to the ULA, but exprapolating from my (short) experience with the Meath LP, I could well imagine a local branch getting well annoyed by HQ imposing a “New Labour” parachutist onto the slate, and that leading to a chatartic conversion to newly reinvogorated socialism, oh and a chance to run their local candidate on a different horse. It’s difficult not to be a wee bit cynical, that’s all. But, but, giving everyone the benefit of the doubt here, it’s good to see the ULA establishing a further Left alternative in places where there hasn’t been one available to the electorate until now.

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Paul - January 18, 2011

Mark you are now saying

“My point was simply that what matters is what people are saying now, rather than what they may have believed in the past”

I welcome that, but it is a different tune than what you were saying when you attempted to justify excluding other socialist groupings.

A welcome U Turn nonetheless

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Mark P - January 18, 2011

And now we return to the real agenda behind your “concern”.

As you know there have been no exclusions of socialist groups from the ULA. None of the groups you have been harping on about have sought to join it.

The ULA doesn’t make its decisions based on my views, unfortunately. However, personally I’m of the opinion that there are some groups not currently involved that I would like to see join. And some groups I would not favour allying with, not so much because of what they were saying at some point in the past but because of their current politics.

Not favouring a full political alliance with a group is not, of course, the same as saying that it’s impossible to work with that group on individual issues. That’s why the Socialist Party has been doing its best to work with wider forces than just those involved in the ULA on issues like the water tax.

Are you telling me that you think that organisations like the IRSP and Eirigi actually want to be in a political alliance with the Socialist Party or SWP? Because personally I rather doubt if they do. They certainly don’t want to be in a political alliance with each other and their politics are near-identical.

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Paul - January 19, 2011

Mark what part of the ULA programme would the WP, ISN, eirigi or the IRSP be in conflict with that would have prevented them from been included or at least discussing it with them from the start?

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Mark P - January 19, 2011

You would have to ask those organisations if any part of the ULA platform would cause them difficulties.

As I’ve already said to you, none of these groups have been refused entrance to the ULA and, indeed, none of them have sought it. Personally, I’d be happy to see the Workers Party and ISN join.

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neilcaff - January 19, 2011

Paul give it a rest, you’re not fooling anyone with your concern trolling and your basic factual errors are becoming embarrassing.

To give you you’re due though your constant heckling has brought back happy childhood memories http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14njUwJUg1I

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Paul - January 19, 2011

neilcaff, what factual errors?

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101. Mark P - January 18, 2011

I see that People Before Profit have announced another candidate, Andrew Keegan, a building worker in Dublin North West.

That brings the running total up to 19 candidates, I think.

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Jim Monaghan - January 19, 2011

Enought in Dublin.Spreading the jam too thin.
Perhaps in oother parts of Ireland maybe.

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Paul - January 19, 2011

Paul considering there is nothing in the ULA programme that would be in conflict with either the position of IRSP or Eirigi, why would you be peersonally happy to see WP and ISN join but not éirígí or IRSP?

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Mark P - January 19, 2011

Paul, I’m not really sure why you’ve developed such an obsession with the personal views of one member of the ULA on whether or not two organisations which have expressed zero interest in the ULA should be accepted into it.

In any case, I’ve already given you my reasons. They haven’t changed since the last time you asked.

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Paul - January 19, 2011

But mark the reasons you gave before was to do with actions in the past and nothing to do with anything contained within the ULA programme or the current position of any of those organisations. But in justifying the exodus of labour people unhappy with not getting their man selected as a Labour candidate in joining the ULA, you said past actions didnt matter, it was what their position was now (as opposed to a couple of weeks ago) and that they agreed with the ULA programme.

Why the double standard? Thats basically what I would like to know.

Just curious also, when did these individuals, including the spurned Labour candidate, approach the ULA about joining?

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Mark P - January 20, 2011

Once more, Paul, why are you so obsessed with the personal views of one member of the ULA on whether or not two organisations which have expressed zero interest in the ULA should be accepted into it? What’s it to you?

As for the reasons I gave, they covered not merely the past of the IRSP but the current politics of Eirigi and the IRSP. I don’t think that they have enough politically in common with us for a political alliance to be either desirable or wise. And I’d be honestly surprised if they felt differently on that score.

Indeed if those two organisations were looking to form wider alliances, the obvious place for them to start would be with each other. Can you explain why they haven’t?

When it comes to particular issues of common concern, I have no problem at all working with people from those organisations. And indeed Eirigi has been involved with the Socialist Party and other forces on the left in a number of “broad left” type initiatives on particular issues.

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102. Mark P - January 19, 2011

On the upside, Jim, the ULA can’t add too many more Dublin constituencies now! If only because I think there’s a candidate in every one bar Dublin Central already.

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103. D_D - January 19, 2011

There’s a new post from Laois-Offaly over at

http://tomasoflatharta.com/2011/01/12/laois-offaly-labour-troubles/#comment-20

which is relevant to the ‘can LP people step into the ULA?’ debate on this thread. It is also a very exciting report politically. It heralds possibilities for major shifts on the left, it reports a significant broadening of the political complexion of the ULA and it vindicates the significance of the formation of the ULA (the potential just waiting in left unity and plurality for a force greater than the sum of its constituents).

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104. D_D - January 19, 2011

Hmmmm. Only Dublin Central? I wonder why? 🙂

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RepublicanSocialist1798 - January 19, 2011

The Costello machine, the Donoghue machine, the O’Sullivan machine, the Mac Donald machine, the Perry machine, the Clancy machine…

Probably the most competitive constituency in the country.

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105. D_D - January 19, 2011

…and the opposition of PRB members in DC to running less-than-strong candidacies anywhere.

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RepublicanSocialist1798 - January 19, 2011

“PRB”?

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D_D - January 19, 2011

PBP then.

the Donoghue machine? the Mac Donald machine? the Clancy machine?

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RepublicanSocialist1798 - January 20, 2011

Sry I’ve a habit of using the word machine to describe the various political factions, the services they offer (e.g. advice clinics) and their supporters in a constituency.

Donoghue = FG
Mac Donald = SF
Aine Clancy = 2nd Labour candidate

In that constituency only Joe Costello has the safe seat. The rest are up to play between SF, two Indos (O’Sullivan and Perry), FG and the 2nd Labour candidate.

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106. DublinDilettante - January 19, 2011

More good news for the ULA as a small anarchist group deigns to acknowledge their existence: http://www.wsm.ie/c/emergence-ula-report-cork-launch

We will need to have serious debate with them about democracy, leadership and revolution but we certainly won’t be ignoring them.

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Alan Davis - January 20, 2011

“small anarchist group”…

actually the WSM has a comparable social weight to both the SWP & SP as far as I can see – certainly it is the case down here in Cork.

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Mark P - January 20, 2011

Ah now Alan, I know that from the perspective of an organisation of one, everybody else just seems uniformly big, but you’ve lost the run of yourself a bit here.

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Alan Davis - January 20, 2011

Well I’ve been to most of the public meetings and demonstrations held in Cork over the last 4 years and unless the SWP and SP have a whole heap of members and supporters who can’t be arsed to turn up to events then I stand by what I said.

Maybe things are different in Dublin but going by the turn outs at the major demonstrations called by ICTU and comparitive events like Marxism, Socialism & the Anarchist Book Fair – all of which I have come up for – then the balance of forces seem pretty similar there as well.

You might want to pretemd otherwise but it is an interesting aspect of the Irish far left that the anarchist organisation is numerically, at least, a direct competitor of yours.

I would also argue that the WSM’s platformist politics makes them something of a direct competitor for the support of subjectively revolutionary minded workers and youth.

But maybe you have some other criteria for assessing social weight which would show that the WSM are at a qualititvely lower level than the SP and SWP – perhaps you could enlighten me.

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Mark P - January 20, 2011

Alan,

The WSM was for many years an organisation of about a dozen. It went through a prolonged period of growth some years ago, and became an organisation of a few dozen. Its peak membership claim was about 70 and it then fell back to 50 – 60 on paper. They have a branch in Cork, a couple of branches in Dublin and scattered supporters elsewhere.

That is considerably smaller than the SWP or Socialist Party. Don’t take my word for it though. Ask them. You are extrapolating from Cork, the one place where the WSM are actually bigger than the SWP, and apparently not realising that Cork is unique in that regard.

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Mark P - January 20, 2011

Or to put it another way, if you were in Belfast, you might be convinced that Organise! is a bigger organisation than the SWP or a similar sized one. And you’d be even more wrong.

I agree with you by the way that the WSM are an interesting group.

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Alan Davis - January 20, 2011

Fair enough, I accept the correction with the caveat that having attended both Socialism and Marxism it would seem to me that neither the SP or SWP could really pose themselves as qualitatively bigger than the WSM.

Certainly I would find it difficult to justify the way “small” was used in the original post I replied to as it clearly implied a difference in numerical quality that is not the case.

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Mark P - January 20, 2011

“Socialism” isn’t a national event for the Socialist Party, nor even a regular, integral, part of our calender. “Marxism” is a national event for the SWP, but attending it requires a much greater investment of time and money than attending the bookfair.

The bookfair is in many ways an excellent event, and one that I’m glad the WSM run. The vast majority of people in attendance are not WSM members however. In many ways that’s a good thing – it means that the event attracts a wider swathe of the general public than Marxism does. But it also means that basing comparisons of organisational size on it will mislead you very badly.

The WSM is substantially smaller than the Socialist Party or SWP.

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Jim Monaghan - January 20, 2011

http://www.wsm.ie/c/emergence-ula-report-cork-launch
James McBarron with an interesting take on the Cork launch.Sympa but cautious which given it is the WSM is fair enough.I accept the criticism of people saying what everyone knows, I find it irritating. A dialogue with people like him would/will be worthwhile.

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107. fergal - January 19, 2011

The ULA will 1 defend working people robustly
2 stand up to the IMF/ECB loansharks
3 frighten the super rich, at least a little
They`re getting my number 1 and I`m no fan of elections(fool`s gold)

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Alan Davis - January 20, 2011

Those are the positive aspects of the ULA but balanced against that is the spreading of the illusion that parliamentarianism and social democratic reformist fairy-tales are a real solution for the working class.

The worker’s movement needs to be building organisations committed to hard class struggle and the expropriation of the bourgeoisie.

In my opinion the ULA, based on its election platform, puts the balance firmly in the reformist rather than revolutionary camp. Given the very real problems that confront us as a class that makes their electoral campaign at best an irrelevance for, and at worst a diversion from, the real tasks we need to be doing.

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anon-anon - January 20, 2011

For some reason, when all this ‘reformist’ finger pointing occurs, I always remember the words my Grandfather told my uncle when the uncle couldn’t get a direct bus home after years spent in Scotland: “Ye’ll be waiting a long time for the bus schedule to change. Get as close to home as possible and we’ll take it from there.”

Hell, sometimes I think some modern socialists, when confronted with such circumstances, would take a four year course in urban planning in order to deal with such a predicament. [A predicament doesn’t have a neat, linear solution but a series of less than ideal options in order to deal with situations. Predicament options, rather than reliance on ideal theory, often result in mistakes, and some of the more clued up population learn from mistakes. These people advance their ideas through practice, albeit with swings and round abouts.]

I sick and tired of waiting for the ideal timetable and bus to magically appear. It’s not going to happen. The ULA may not reach its metaphorical destination but it’s moving.

There’s a world of difference between leaders and movements which practice what they preach (walk the walk in modern parlance) and those who preach but do nothing pratical to work with the working class (only talk the talk).

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Alan Davis - January 20, 2011

So once again we see a defender of the ULA’s reformist platform reduced to unsubstantiated inferences about my supposed lack of activity. Whatever your criticisms of my politics this is not one that stands up to the harsh light of day – ust ask any leftist in Cork. There is no evidence to suggest that I am using my differences over strategy to refuse joint action with anyone in the immediate campaigns where we agree on fighting the cuts.

The fact that you are reduced to this kind of political slur says a lot to me.

To take the bus anaology it is more a question of being at a bus stop which services different routes. One route is the ULA reformist one. We are waiting at the bus stop and along comes a bus. You say – lets hop on, at least it is going somewhere which seems to be in the right direction. I say – well I’ve studied the timetable and route map and actually that takes us in the completely wrong direction and we won’t end up at our destination, lets wait for a bus that is going in the right direction.

Now I am quite happy to have a discussion about whether my reading of the timetable and route map are accurate and as a result being convinced that the ULA bus is actually going to take us in the right direction but so far none of the ULA supporters seems interested in doing that.

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108. Jim Monaghan - January 20, 2011

“the spreading of the illusion that parliamentarianism and social democratic reformist fairy-tales are a real solution for the working class.”
that Alan is untrue. Higgins has fought teh water tax and will fight it again in the coommunity. Kieran Allen fought the Labourites in SIPTU. This is just 2 examples of extra parliamentary struggle.
And the only reason for debate with you is to avoid you spreading such nonesense.You are in fact like our anarchist friends in spreading such absentionist nonesense.The component parts of ULA are well known for struggle wheresoever it arises.

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Alan Davis - January 20, 2011

Jim – as I have already pointed out I am not saying that members and supporters of the ULA aren’t involved in various campaigns in defence of the working class or indeed that the ULA completely excludes the need for this from the platform.

However what I am critiquing is the platform of the ULA as “the” alternative to the capitalist crisis which is how it is being sold to working people. Taken as a whole it quite clearly is a social democratic reformist platform and to anybody who considers themselves a revolutionary socialist it is therefore completely insufficient and must be argued against.

Now you can argue that the ULA’s reformist platform really is what is required (as Ann Foley, one of the candidates in Cork, does) but that is different from trying to pretend that it is something it isn’t.

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109. Jim Monaghan - January 20, 2011


Higgins a tribune of the people.
Whats not to like. Whatever my disagreements with teh SP this is fantastic stuff

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Pope Epopt - January 20, 2011

Fair play to Joe. The content and tone was just right and I was pleased to hear him refer to the foisting of private gambling debts on the working people of Europe as a whole.

Predictably, and nauseatingly, the head of the unelected neoliberal gang that controls the EC, calculatedly conflated genuine European ideals of the past with the defense of finance capital interests of the present.

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110. Jim Monaghan - January 20, 2011

Alan
Your idea of a front would only include the IBT.
Daniel DeLeons ghost lives on in sects like that.

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Alan Davis - January 20, 2011

Jim – why do you continue to make these so clearly fake assertions about my supposed sectarianism?

I have been involved in innumerable united fronts over the years and am currently actively involved in the Cork Womens Right to Choose Group and Cork Anti-Water Tax Campaign.

Over the years I have also actively participated in various attempts to set up new working class parties. The most significant from a personal point of view probably being the Socialist Labour Party in the late ’90s in Britain where I was the Chairperson of the largest and most militant oppositional branch (Vauxhall in south London) which resulted in me being the only left oppositional candidate for Vice-President of the SLP at the 1997 conference.

As I have already stated, to the extent the ULA moves from being an election pact on a reformist platform towards having a focus of building a new working class party where there is open and democratic discussion on the programme then I will likely participate in that process.

I can only assume that you hope these repeated slurs will divert attention from your inability/unwillingness to respond to of the political points I am making about the reformist nature of the ULA election platform.

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