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ULA membership drive… March 30, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.

As Mark P noted yesterday, the ULA is starting a membership drive and discuss the steps necessary to see it emerge as a party in its own right.

You’ll find details and a joint statement here.

Interesting to learn yesterday that there’s no clear intention to organise in Northern Ireland at least not as of yet.


1. Mark P - March 30, 2011

Thanks for putting up the link, WbS.


WorldbyStorm - March 30, 2011

You’re very welcome.


2. Blissett - March 30, 2011

‘Interesting to learn yesterday that there’s no clear intention to organise in Northern Ireland at least not as of yet.’

What sort of relationship have the two largest constituent parts of the ULA in the north?


Mark P - March 30, 2011

The issue is less about relationships than it is about the fact that there’s a different situation, a different balance of forces and a different political history.

Other political forces on the left carry more relative weight than they do in the South. The organisations involved in the ULA have divergent political histories (although much of that may be in the past). The opportunities open (or not open) to the left may be very different. Basically, it’s not as simple as just assuming that what has been achieved in the South can simply be extended to the North without a great deal of discussion and clarification.


Declan Mullen - March 30, 2011

Funny, as these excuses are what the stalinists said in the 1940s when it came to partition and a single party.

And as for the North as a different reality to that in the South, well that’s what Sinn Fein says every time the cuts up North are raised.


Mark P - March 30, 2011

In some regards the North and the South are different from each other. Some things actually do follow from that. Some things do not follow from that, but people will pretend that they do if it suits them. Did you have some point of significance to make, Damien, or did you just stop by to add a bit of sneering?


Declan Mullen - March 30, 2011

@ Mark P:

“Some things actually do follow from that. Some things do not follow from that, but people will pretend that they do if it suits them. ”

Exactly. and now that it suits you Mark P, you’re all for highlighting the differences generated by 80 years of a border, seperate law-making bodies, separate tax jurisdictions, and 30 years of sectarian strife.

But you’ll jump with that A.D.D. affliction you have into jerking your kneee at anyone who is not ULA once the next argument comes along.

Will YOU be at any of these open meetings, by any chance?

Will you be meeting people and getting them to join?

It’s just, I assume that the ULA actually wants new members, and wants to build a genuine greass-roots organisations outside of its Dublin enclaves.

And I can’t for the life of me see how anyone thinking of joining or helping out will continue with that sentiment once they meet someone like you.

That’s my point, I suppose. you do nothing but pread hate and vitriol, and will change argument at the drop of a hat, just like the middle class converts to working class struggle always do.

Just look at the history of the WP. All those middle class warriors, all with ministerial posts today.


Mark P - March 30, 2011

Isn’t that sweet, I seem to have kindled love in the heart of another lonely internet soul.


Declan Mullen - March 30, 2011

Nn, not lonely.

And also, not anonymous.

That’s the thing, Mark P, isn’t it?

You don’t want to use your real name as it might affect your job prospects.

That’s the middle class for you.

You keep fighting the good fight there Mark P.

But keep your CV clean and pressed, just in case.


Mark P - March 30, 2011

Oh dear. You come onto a site published by men called “WorldbyStorm”, “Garibaldy”, “Tomboktu” and “Irishelectionliterature” and give out about the use of pseudonyms?

I’d assume that you weren’t the sharpest tack in the corkboard, but I suppose, to be charitable to one so evidently in the throes of unrequited passion, the kind of overwhelming obsessional love you seem to be feeling for me can make fools of us all.


Garibaldy - March 30, 2011

Any chance we can keep the conversation focused on political discussion?


3. D_D - March 30, 2011

Funny I was just reading this:


by James Connolly. Of course there’s been a lot of historical water under the bridge since it was written in 1909. I read it in (a rare) print but the link above is to the marvelous James Connolly Internet Archive, much of which must be credited to the labours of Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh.

Spend hours on this site. It will do you good.


Mark P - March 30, 2011

That article might have more relevance if the various organisations of socialists in the North were not already almost uniformly part of all Ireland organisations rather than British organisations. I believe that the only exception is the Counterfire Group, and even they are also part of the all-Ireland PBPA.


Terry McDermott - March 30, 2011

What is Counterfire Mark?


Mark P - March 30, 2011

Most of the Belfast SWP split from the SWP a year or two ago. Neither side ever said what the split was about, although I understand that it had its origins in some kind of dispute over election candidacies.

The split group originally called itself the International Socialists, which is a traditional name in SWP circles – a previous SWP splinter group in Belfast called itself that too. A few months ago, they announced that they were joining Counterfire.

Counterfire is a British based group led by John Rees and Lindsey German. Rees and German are big wheels in what remains of the Stop the War Coalition and were the central leaders of the British SWP up until they lost a factional dispute. Despite much reduced numbers, Rees and German’s new outfit is the main force behind the Coalition of Resistance, one of the anti-cuts campaigns across the water.

These two splits had nothing to do with each other, but it makes a certain amount of sense for them to link up. As I understand it, they are still involved in People Before Profit in the North, despite their split with the SWP.


Garibaldy - March 30, 2011

I see that someone who used to be in Stiff Little Fingers will be standing for the PBP in South Belfast. Should be music to the ears of some here.


Joe - March 30, 2011

Great stuff Gari. Does this mean that at last there’s somethin for us in Belfast?


Mark P - March 30, 2011

Really? An original member, or a later ringer?


Garibaldy - March 30, 2011

Original member



Belfast holds many delights for the discerning guest.


Mark P - March 30, 2011

Last time I was up there, the bus I was on had rocks thrown at it by two different groups of kids. I’m still not sure if that’s just a local hobby, or if someone tipped them off about my presence.


Joe - March 30, 2011

Last time I was there I had a nice pint with some ISN members in the John Hewitt pub. Lovely place.
Other places I’d like to visit are the club on Friendly St, scene, of course, of many a mill. And the Trident in Bangor.


D_D - March 30, 2011

The John Hewitt, owned by the Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre: http://www.thejohnhewitt.com/

Wish I was sitting at the window there now having a pint of Belfast Ale.


Garibaldy - March 30, 2011


the Lagan club is now closed. I’ve always thought the John Hewitt tries too hard to be honest. Never really warmed to it.


Mark P - March 30, 2011

I’m surrounded by inexplicable fondness for Belfast, today. My girlfriend caused me to gape like a bewildered carp a couple of hours ago by expressing some pleasant anticipation at the thought of visiting the city to help with canvassing.

This was baffling both because the idea of traveling to another city to help with an election campaign without being conscripted to do so is nearly beyond my comprehension and, even more so, because I’ve always thought of Belfast as a grim, grey, depressing, kip. All the charm of Dundalk spread over ten times as large an area.


Joe - March 31, 2011

Lagan club closed? Wot, no more fights on Friendly St then? We’ll just have to meet up in the Trident in Bangor and walk back to the city.


4. Jim Monaghan - March 30, 2011

At last a clear sign of ULA organising as an entity. It would be lovely to see meetings which are not distinctly SP or SWP being organised under the ULA flag.
Personally I regard the North as the elephant in the room which we have to be addressed at some stage. Luckily it is for the moment not an immediate priority so we have time for a friendly and fraternal debate without animus.
I do feel that there is a momentum which should be seized.
“there is a tide in the affairs of men”


Mark P - March 30, 2011

I’d broadly agree with that, Jim.

The issue of the North, both in political and organisational terms, will have to be discussed in a careful and patient way. It’s important not to try to force hurried decisions on what is still a fragile organisation.


5. Declan Mullen - March 30, 2011

My last comment has been censored, it seems.

Typical. Any criticism of Mark P on this site and it gets cut straight away.


Garibaldy - March 30, 2011

In what way was it censored? I see criticism of Mark P there.


Budapestkick - March 30, 2011

Already exhibiting signs of paranoia and self-righteousness, the many symptoms of the troll.


Garibaldy - March 30, 2011

As said above, let’s stick to the politics of the debate.


ejh - March 30, 2011

That’s not true at all. I’ve often said that Mark P is a


6. D_D - March 30, 2011

“…if the various organisations of socialists in the North were not already almost uniformly part of all Ireland organisations rather than British organisations” (Mark P).

That’s a matter of opinion 🙂

Fascinating stuff about the SWP-PBPA-IS-Counterfire in Belfast. Any chance Mark P you could write a monthly bulletin for PBPA supporters about what is happening in the Alliance? 🙂


Mark P - March 30, 2011

It’s tempting, but I don’t think that would be very compatible with our new-found spirit of friendliness, D_D!

Surely you must have known most of that stuff already, anyway though?


7. Paul Wilson - March 30, 2011

Re PBP candidate.
Hope they use ” Barbed Wire Love ” as their election soundtrack.


8. Pope Epopt - March 30, 2011

Is being au fait with the ins and outs of various historical sectarian wrangles on either side of the border a prerequisite of joining the ULA? Or just of reading this blog?

Just asking.


Pope Epopt - March 30, 2011

Another markup disaster.


WorldbyStorm - March 30, 2011

Nah, just reading this blog… 🙂


LeftAtTheCross - March 30, 2011

Presumably there will be a political education programme for newly joined individuals to bring them up to speed on the details.


WorldbyStorm - March 30, 2011

Yeah, this blog too. 😉


Mark P - March 30, 2011

The more polemical documents from the archive could serve as a kind of curriculum.


WorldbyStorm - March 30, 2011



Jim Monaghan - March 31, 2011

I think a fresh slate would be best. I would leave the justifications of our respective historical positions to the archive and history. I think we should discuss in an open manner as if (and it is true)the people we are talking to are new and do not want to wade through discussions where the footnote are incredibly long. I would suggest too that there is a necessity to regard all ULA as open to discussion and change and that no of us are fixed in a rigid and sectarian manner.The first sign of name calling and denunciations then we will lose.Maybe I worry too much but my knowledge of the SLP is that the not pickers lost the bulk of the membership.


9. revolutionaryprogramme - April 6, 2011

The process of discussion and debate around the creation of a new workers’ party has begun with the announcement by the ULA that it will shortly be calling public meetings and setting up local branches to discuss how to go forward towards that goal.

The linked document is a contribution to that process of discussion and debate. It takes as its starting point the belief that the new party should have socialism as an open and explicit aim. Taking that as a premise it then outlines what I believe to be the key points that would need to be part of a programme to concretely bring about the socialist transformation of society.

This is obviously far from a finished programme so any comments and suggestions would be appreciated.



10. D_D - April 6, 2011

There is a basic misunderstanding here. The party being floated by the ULA was never proposed to be a revolutionary marxist party. It is to be a broad coalition of revolutionaries, left social democrats and radical anti-capitalst activists. Revolutionary socialists, and any political current agreeing with the basic platform of the ULA, will be able to keep their organisational and programmatic integrity as tendencies or platforms within the ULA or whatever the new party will be called.

Those in the ULA seeking an eventual revolutionary party (as defined by its real support in the working class as well as it’s written programmic aims) would look upon the new (ULA) party as part of a process of building towards such a revolutionary party.


Local Yokel - April 6, 2011

Sounds more like a mask than a party.


revolutionaryprogramme - April 6, 2011

As far as I am aware there is no predefined programmatic basis for the new workers’ party that the ULA is initiating a process of discussion and debate about.

I am sure there are some who will argue that the programme of the new party should be limited to the ULA electoral platform. There will be others who might argue that it should be even “broader” in appeal. There will be those who will argue it should be explicitly socialist but understand that in a reformist way. And there will be others who will argue for it to have a revolutionary socialist programme and will agree to greater or lesser degrees with my understanding of what that involves. And all shades in-between no doubt.

At this stage, when the discussion and debate has barely even started, I would defend my right to present the programmatic framework I believe is necessary for the new party if it is to be of any real use to our class in the struggle for liberation from the chains of capitalism. Just as I would defend the right of any other participant in the process to present their views on what the programme should be.


D_D - April 6, 2011

Good luck with that, ‘revolutionaryprogramme’ But the ULA is not a tabula rasa on which any programmatic framework can be impressed. The SWP and the SP already see themselves as revolutionary, marxist organisations. (And some other components of the ULA see themselves in that light too.) There is not, unfortunately, a consenus of the concept behind the projected new party, but there is general agreement of a broader and united party that would combine various persusuaions including radical and principled political activists and new supporters who would not consider themselves fully-fledged marxists in the sense of the members of the existing far left parties.

There is no mask involved, or there shouldn’t be. Open and fair involvement of all in the developemnent of the party and its direction can bring it along with the consent of all or of the clear majority. The corollary of this is that those with ready-made programmes or perspectives must be open themselves to new influences in a new party working out collectively its engagement with the shifting world about it.

The process of creation of a new workers’ party is not just a matter of debate and discussion either. Close involvement with the struggles of people on the ground and in the various movements and the practical work of building an organisation are at least as important.


revolutionaryprogramme - April 6, 2011

Actually I’m not the one trying to “impress” a programmatic framework on the new party.

Rather it seems you are – with your claim there is already “general agreement” on the programmatic/organisational framework before there have been any open meetings of those who will want to participate in the process of creating the new party.


11. Jim Monaghan - April 6, 2011

“Revolutionary socialists, and any political current agreeing with the basic platform of the ULA, will be able to keep their organisational and programmatic integrity as tendencies or platforms within the ULA or whatever the new party will be called”
A real workers party based on wanting to fight back. Good and decent people who may not see the necessity of a revolution do not necessarily want to cave in to the dictats of capital and imperialism.The struggle will sort out the sheep from the goats and I would suspect that past rhetoric would not be a judge of this. For those who like history it was Jaures the reformist who opposed WW1 war not Guesde, the “marxist”.
Though Des I worry (I always worry) that momentum is being lost. I would to love to see less of SP, PbP, SWP on posters and more ULA.


Clive Sullish - April 6, 2011

As a currently unaffiliated prospective ULA member, I’d be prepared to give the suggested structures a chance – with SP, SWP, and whatever else, retaining separate identities – although I can see how this might create problems of distrust later on. I’d have a serious reservations about the involvement of People before Profit however, because it would in effect bring into being a party within a party, within another party – a Russian dolls scenario.


D_D - April 6, 2011

Gets complicated, doesn’t it? An allaince within an alliance. Or within, in time, a party. Howzabout this thought too: if within a broad party marxists in tune with their historical experience see the need to maintain their own organisational independence, is there a need though for more than one marxist tendency or platform in a new party? 🙂


12. revolutionaryprogramme - April 6, 2011

So is this programmatic/organisational framework going to be open for discussion or are the initiators presenting it as a an effective fait accompli?


D_D - April 6, 2011

Well you could always engage with the discussion on it here. The new party will not be a Bolshevik Party. Not that I have any objection to Bolshevik Parties. It was never, ever proposed as such, though there are obviously varying views of what a Bolshevik party is and was. It will be a broad class-struggle party, incorporating some left reformists (yes!), with a policy platform not really very different to the ‘revolutionary’ programme you propose except when it comes to the inclusion of some of the latter provisions such as:

“It is necessary to break up the existing state apparatus and replace it with a new state power, based on the fundamentally different forms of workers’ democracy…The new party should openly advocate this and reject any reformist fantasies about “community control” of the existing capitalist state apparatus.

To defend ourselves we need to form mass-based organs of self-defence which can resist the repression of the capitalist state as we fight back against the attacks and lay the basis for its overthrow.”

This in a forum where the use of the word ‘socialism’ will not be without contention.

We’ve had enough fait accompli, old and very new, and I presume policy and organisation will be open for discussion. Including the framework I suppose, but you have to allow for recognition of what people are consciously setting up. When the founders, committee or convention, are starting a football and not a hurling club it is difficult to divert one into the other when from day one it has been signalled what the general intention is.


D_D - April 7, 2011

Of course ‘revolutionaryprogramme’ should be able to present his/her revolutionary programme to any founding conference of the new party, if he/she insists on burdening that gathering with the task of going line by line through such a long and weighty additional document.

This imposition on the democratic patience of the ULA must be seen in the context of the declared intention, not some abstact logic, of all the diverse players, except less than half a dozen who are keen to promote varying revolutionary programmes. This intention is to found a new broad fighting party that will include self-proclaimed revolutionaries but will not insist on all adhereing to a revolutionary programme. Please re-read the post-election statements of leading ULA actors on the proposed new party; statements for which there was an all round welcome and which were restatements of declarations made all along the way.

‘revolutionaryprogramme’ may consider the adoption of “mass-based organs of self-defence” to be a necessity that “will confront us more-or-less immediately”. He/she will know that it is not seen as such a priority by a considerable number of the supporters that have worked for the ULA in their local areas up to now.


revolutionaryprogramme - April 7, 2011

I’m Alan Davis – “revolutionaryprogramme” is just the wordpress persona I set up to provide a blog for my document.

As the introduction to the document quite clearly states, my document isn’t a programmatic proposal for presentation at a conference (though it may form the framework for such a thing in the future).

What I am intrested in is the political discussion about what kind of party the working class needs.

It is my sincere opinion that we need a party that has socialism as its stated aim and my document is a contribution to the discussion about what programme could achieve that aim.

It seems you want a party that has some other more limited aim of just fighting back and implicitly accepting the continuation of capitalism.

I guess my document is therefore of limited interest to you as our aims for the new party are different.

Though of course there is considerable overlap and while I accept that the current consciousness of the workers’ movement is that the type of mass-based organs of self-defence I refer to are not necessary I would strongly argue that it is incredibly politically naive for anyone with any understanding of the history of class struggle, both here and internationally, to argue that if the Irish working class was able to build a movement capable of stopping, let alone rolling back, the economic and social attacks of the bosses and their government that we would not be directly confronted with this issue.

An important part of the general political tasks confronting socialists in the coming period, both in terms of this new party project and in the united front campaigns we are active in, will be changing that current consciousness to one of recognising the role of the capitalist state and the need to defend ourselves against it.


13. revolutionaryprogramme - April 6, 2011

I do of course recognise that the initiators of the project will necessarily have significant weight in framing the parameters of what is set up, and rightly so.

All I am asking for is the right to argue, in a fraternal manner, the merits of a revolutionary alternative to the reformist programmatic framework for the new party being put forward by the initiators.

I accept that the balance of forces would appear to be against my argument for the necessity of the new party having a revolutionary programme but I believe I have the logic of the class struggle on my side – as I presume you do.

As someone very active in the Cork left I also look forward to being able to work with the new forces that the launching of a new party will hopefully draw into active class struggle.

One thing that is unclear to me is whether the initiators framework will include having an aim of the party being for socialism. Do you know?


Jim Monaghan - April 6, 2011

ULA starts locally. I presume that delegates will be elected on some sort of basis. I suppose supporting extending the project that was started.
You disagree with the start. You want speaking and I suppose full rights. Does this apply to all far left groups both those who view the project has hopeful and a good start and those who regard it as a diversion from the “real” class struggle and who regard the existing leaders as misleaders.Will there be much time left for those who view it as a breakthrough and who want to build it to debate.A touch of cuckoo in the nest.
I this happens I wonder will there be any time left for those who canvassed.There are serious issues to be discussed eg organising in the 6 counties, work in the trade unions, how to fight the imperialist dictat etc.But I suppose the adoption pof a maximalist program and the expulsion of the existing leadership would solve all that. This is meant to be ironic.


Mark P - April 6, 2011

I don’t agree with Alan’s proposed programme, but I also don’t see any reason to object to him putting forward his views.

There are going to be local meetings and then there will be a national convention. As for the issue of an explicit commitment to socialism, that has already been the subject of disagreements and no doubt different components will continue to have different views on it. The Socialist Party is of the view that the ULA should make such a commitment.


revolutionaryprogramme - April 7, 2011

The ULA “project” was an electoral agreement between existing organisations on a minimum platform.

What is being proposed now is a new workers party. This is a different project from the electoral pact. There is therefore no logic to the idea that a new workers party MUST limit itself to the reformist political framework of the ULA electoral pact.

If you bother to read my proposed programmatic framework you will see that it does deal with the serious issues immediately facing our class.

Indeed D_D goes so far as to say that it is likely the new party will adopt policies that are “not really very different” from what I am proposing in my document – apart from the apparently contentious issue of organising the working class to defend itself from attacks by the capitalist state.

It is of course this issue of how to relate to the capitalist state that is at the core of the difference between the politics of reform and revolution.

And this is not a “maximalist” issue but one that will confront us more-or-less immediately if we are actually able to organise the militant class struggle that will be necessary to stop, let alone roll-back, the economic and social attacks of the bosses and their government.


revolutionaryprogramme - April 7, 2011

Mark – Given that we agree that the new party should have socialism as its aim, what is it about my programmatic framework that you disagree with?

In what way is it wrong or insufficient as a progamme to get to socialism?


14. revolutionaryprogramme - April 8, 2011

Cork & Kilkenny ULA Membership Drive Public Meetings

The details for the ULA Kilkenny meeting are: Friday 15th April 7:30pm Clubhouse Hotel, Speakers: Joe Higgins Conor MacLiam and Joan Collins TD

The details for the Cork meeting are Monday 18th April 8pm Metropole Hotel. Speakers Clare Daly, Mick Barry, Kieran Allen



Mark P - April 8, 2011

Yes, these should be the first two of a long series of these meetings, trying to establish a branch structure for the ULA in advance of the June convention.


15. Mark P - April 8, 2011

Three more meetings as part of the ULA membership drive have been announced:

The details for the ULA Blanchardstown meeting are:

8pm Thursday 14 April, Clonsilla Inn. Speakers: Joe Higgins TD, Joan Collins TD, Chair: Cllr Matt Waine

The details for the ULA Balbriggan meeting are:

8pm Tuesday 12 April, Milestone Inn. Speakers: Clare Daly TD, Cllr Brid Smith, Chair: Cllr Terry Kelleher

The details for the ULA Tallaght meeting are:

8pm Monday 11 April, Plaza Hotel
Speakers: Clare Daly TD, Cllr Gino Kenny, Mick Murphy


16. Fight the cuts - April 8, 2011

First of all let me say it’s great to see the establishment of a worker’s party being on the table. It’s essential left sectarianism is abandoned, especially in the context of the political situation facing people in Ireland now.

I’m a little bit confused about the ‘membership drive’. Mark P mentions the establishment of a branch structure also. This to me implies the dissolving of the structures of the constituent groups. Otherwise, for practical reasons, a lot of confusion can arise ie. internal strife over attempts to poach members for one’s own organisation. If we are to be serious I think the creation of one set of structures long term is the requisite goal.

On the North, obviously there are different political issues there, that is hardly a reason not to organise there! Yes it must be dealt with carefully and patiently(This infers extending talks to other groups on the left, as there is SP/SWP members in the 6 counties so they are obviously not what we are talking about here) but the North is crying out for a non-sectarian leftist alternative to simply SF,SDLP or conservative unionism. The left should see how the land lies after the Northern elections, with the IRSP re-entering electoral politics and eirigi entering it for the first time, the SWP and SP also running etc.

At a future date after some building, I believe that ULA reps need to hold talks with reps from CPI,IRSP,eirigi,WP,SD,ISN etc and see about building one worker’s party. With the resources and manpower this would add to the ULA North and South, it could well develop into a serious political force with more of a base in communities nationally.

On the programme debate I think it’s a no-brainer. The ULA should not a mask or some social democratic umbrella, it should be a socialist party sin é.


LeftAtTheCross - April 8, 2011

“the North is crying out for a non-sectarian leftist alternative to simply SF,SDLP or conservative unionism”


“The Workers Party is standing a candidate in each of the four Belfast constuituencies.”


Mark P - April 8, 2011

Fight the Cuts:

The United Left Alliance is moving at the moment from a structure which consists of the four affiliated organisations and a list of supporters to an individual membership based structure with ULA branches. It is still an alliance rather then a fully fledged party, but it is becoming an alliance of organisations and individuals rather than an alliance of organisations alone. This is a vital step because independent activists who are not members of one or other of the affiliates have to be able to play a full role.

It does not mean that the affiliated organisations will dissolve themselves. Nor will they do so when the ULA moves, as is planned, to a fully fledged party. This sort of structure, with different currents or platforms representing different points of view within a joint party, is very common the European left. It’s also something of a necessity given that there are many issues on which the left does not agree.

I agree with you that the ULA should adopt an explicitly socialist programme.

I don’t necessarily agree with you about organising in the North. That will be a long discussion inside the ULA. Personally, I’m of the view that the ULA should not simply try to extend itself into the North as a projection of a Southern phenomenon. I wouldn’t be against a Northern left project merging with the ULA but I’d be very wary of simply extending something which came out of very particular circumstances in the South to the North.


revolutionaryprogramme - April 9, 2011

I of course agree that the programme of any new workers’ party should include the right to form political tendencies within it.

But that is surely not the aim. The aim should be to get the highest possible level of common understanding of the tasks to allow for the organisation to carry out those commonly agreed tasks most efficiently and coherently.

Paradoxically the right to form tendencies is a necessary part of this struggle towards the highest possible programmatic homogeneity.

What is being proposed here seems to formalise that situation of separate tendencies and programmes within the new party as a long-term strategic perspective.

I can’t help but be concerned that this will mitigate against the necessary culture of political education and open discussion and debate that is vitally necessary for the new party.

I do of course accept that there is a political reality to the existence of these groupings and it is certain that they will exist in the new party at its formation.

But, for the reasons outlined above, I think it would be a mistake to formally codify that immediate political reality into the long-term structures of the new party.


17. Fight the cuts - April 9, 2011

Thanks for that Mark P.

Just a quick clarification on two things. Surely without being a single body, this will lead to internal tension, when you seem to think the opposite. Not only that but it could retard the growth of the party. Different groups will be trying to sell different papers at events, building their own organisation generally etc rather than having a ULA paper and building the ULA as a group.

Another thing. Are other groups going to be approached? I think it’s a necessity, but then that leads to more papers being distributed and them equally trying to build their own group.

I’m probably thinking a long time down the road but it would be good to have one worker’s party that people can concentrate on building. One step at a time though.


18. Jim Monaghan - April 9, 2011

The existing tendencies are a fact of life.The challenge will be to create an athmosphere where it will be possible to iron out disagreements old and new.What I hope is that the new grouping will have a lot of independents who will act as a brake to splitish tendencies.
The process of clarification of a revolutionary program will be a process rather than a group or individual visiting Trotsky on a mountain and coming down and proclaiming the truth.It will not be easy as each of the existing groups have their own traditions good and bad.
Mark P knows the numbers better than me but I figure that if even half the activists who worked join it will be significantly bigger than the charter members put together


revolutionaryprogramme - April 9, 2011

The clarification of a revolutionary programme will be a process of political struggle, both in theory and testing out in campaigns, between the different perspectives of groups and individuals who presumably believe that their current understanding is the closest aproximation of “the truth”.

The key will be developing a political culture where openness to differences is combined with a commitment to programmatic clarity and willingness to accept that our own version of “the truth” could be wrong to greater or lesser degree.

It is that approach that I hope to bring to the discussions on structure and programme of the new party that are about to begin.


Jim Monaghan - April 10, 2011

But that to me presumes an acceptance that ULA was/is a good initiative. It means avoiding a priori denunciations.Above all it means avoiding sermons from the mount.


revolutionaryprogramme - April 10, 2011

I remain unclear as to why you think supporting the ULA electoral pact, or not, necessarily has anything to do with the new initiative to form a workers’ party.

It is true that the same initiators are invovled in both projects but in terms of structure and programme (apart from some general opposition to the attacks of the bosses and their government) there is nothing that necessarily flows from one to the other – they are separate projects.

The new party could have a programme that is either to the right of, about the same, or to the left of that of the platform of the ULA electoral pact.

It could take on a structure that mimics the ULA alliance approach or it could be a more unitary organistion.

As I understand it all this is up for discussion and debate.

The participants in this process will each have more-or-less clearly thought out and firmly held views.

Presumably the two main organisations involved will forcefully present their views with at least one known difference over whether the new party should be explciitly socialist or not.

To the extent they, or anyone else who puts forwards proposals, makes these in a “sermon from the mount” kind of way then I would imagine that this would undermine the effectiveness of their proposal. But I would hope the new party will defend the right of anyone to present their ideas in whatever style they choose, even ones that are not the most sensible/optimal in the opinion of others.

And as long as those proposals fall within the general framework of promoting the interests of our class then there should be no restrictions based on their content – be that reformist, centrist or revolutionary.


19. Blissett - April 9, 2011

I see someone on politics.ie has posted up figures supposedly from a Red C poll. If accurate, then neither the ULA nor the SP and SWP are included, they are lumped in with INDs Others. which is a bit dissapointing


Jack Jameson - April 11, 2011

I don’t like the lumping in of ULA/PBP/SP with Independents but is there not a problem for polling organisations – do you have a category each for PBP, SWP and SP or just one for ULA?


20. D_D - April 10, 2011

The existence of various tendencies and platforms would not hold back the development of the ULA as much as the arrest, by one or more of these tendencies, of the ULA’s own structures, internal life and external presence and publications.

The development of the ULA would also be stunted by a concentration of effort by one or more of the leading components into the growth of its own organisation, inside or outside the ULA. If, inside the ULA, more effort was put into tendency than into ULA activities. If, outside the ULA, the organisations intervened in struggles and the movements mainly under their own flag and not that of the ULA, or if they sought to build their own projects rather than the ULA.

We are already seeing a prospect of the latter with the launch by one of the founding organisations of a campaign against the cuts. The ‘Enough’ campaign is a solo run which is campaigning on a field – austerity, the cuts and the IMF/EU deal – where the ULA could campaign as the ULA or certainly through a wider operation with the participation of other ULA forces. It is effectively duplicating and dividing the mobilisation effort by building an entirely new but overlapping entity to the ULA. As such it is immediately reminiscent of the diverting effect last year of the now replaced ‘Right to Work Campaign’ on the development of the People Before Profit Alliance. On a very practical level the new campaign is diverting energy and focus away from the agreed agenda of building local ULA branches and membership in the post-electoral period and is in danger of leading to the absurd photocopy of two public meetings being called in succession by the same actors in the same places to build a local group of ‘Enough’ and then a local branch of the ULA.

Any new campaign on a valid issue that attracts broad or big support cannot, whatever the wisdom of its original conception, simply be ignored. A test of the maturity and ultimate political superiority of those who would have done things differently is to choose, rather than abstention, to join a momentum that is having a real effect on the issue and on the organisation of significant numbers. The choice, of course, depends on a judgement of the potential of this or that initiative: whether, for instance, it is to be measured by a packed indoor meeting of over 300 in the Gresham Hotel on a Tuesday or an outdoor rally of less than 200 at the Dáil on a Wednesday.

It is not too late to channel campaigning on the cuts back into a movement combined on the streets as well as on the electoral platform.


Jim Monaghan - April 11, 2011

I share D’s worries.The problem and task is to stabilise ULA and allow it to take shape. We can then build on it’s program moving to expand its limited program (cobbled together for the elections.). If D’s fears realised then the various groups will go their own way building bigger groups rather than a small party.
While I have my own ideas about program (eg the uncompleted national revolution) I see the most urgent thing being keeping ULA together as an organisation that can attract militants who want to fightback.I think every voice that can take up D’s effective call should do so. We want unity, we want to build on the breakthrough.


21. Some other internet discussion on the programme of the new party « revolutionaryprogramme - April 10, 2011
22. donal cam - April 10, 2011

Interesting. However, I think there are a number of things that have yet to be cleared up by the ULA and the groups that are a part of it.

Firstly, their ‘programme’ is extremely vague and contains no clear alternative beyond ‘tax the rich’ slogans. This doesn’t take account of the fact that the rich have shipped out most of their liquid wealth already.

Secondly, they have put the cart before the horse in deciding to expand the organisation before putting a clear programme or strategy in place as to what they’ll do once they’ve grown or in case they fail to grow. They also haven’t said what the new ULA will be- is it going to remain an electoral alliance, and if so will new members be poached by the different organisations (a surefire way to bring a speedy end to it), or will it be set up as a new party and the other parties dissolved into currents?

It seems to me that those who are undertaking the project haven’t learned the lessons of the NPA in France. Before doing anything else, especially at a period when there is little appetite for a fight or orientation towards struggle, they should thrash out the substantive points of the ULA along the following lines:

1. Define what it will be in the future- electoral alliance or party.
2. What they see as the primary focus of the ULA, and how to go about forming an organisation which can best suit that purpose.
3. Put forth a detailed programme instead of a set of principles.
4. Clear up the position of constituent organisations and recruitment to them.

If these steps are taken, I think the ULA could grow, if not I think it will remain a party of protest rather than a party of revolution.


DublinDilettante - April 10, 2011

Well, I think I can clear that one up for you straight away. The ULA is not, and will never be, a party of revolution, nor will any organisation which grows out of it. If we’re lucky, the hypothetical movement to which the party the ULA may spawn attaches itself may give rise to a party of potential revolution in your lifetime.

I think the PBP softly-softly approach to the ULA’s programme is mistaken (not made in bad faith, but tactically mistaken.) Co-operation and compromise with reformist currents are of course necessary from time to time, but this is not relevant to the ULA. All the alliance’s elected representatives, constituent bodies and major figures are to the left of the programme pursued thus far. There is no-one with whom to compromise!

In that context, the failure to adumbrate a specifically socialist programme is both damaging and unnecessary.


Scabby Rabbit - April 11, 2011

Firstly, their ‘programme’ is extremely vague and contains no clear alternative beyond ‘tax the rich’ slogans. This doesn’t take account of the fact that the rich have shipped out most of their liquid wealth already.

That’s because the ‘programme’ is a minimum agreement made between its constituent parts in advance of the last elections. Any specific policies proposed were for the constituent parts to decide upon, so long as they were concurrent and in the spirit of the ULA’s agreed programme.

Secondly, they have put the cart before the horse in deciding to expand the organisation before putting a clear programme or strategy in place as to what they’ll do once they’ve grown or in case they fail to grow.

I think it would be a poor start if they presented such a thing before those unaligned people who were active in the campaigns, or weren’t but want to be, had an opportunity to air their views.

This shouldn’t be just a merger of the Socialist Party, PBP, WUAG and Bree’s group – it needs to be more. Allow people to affiliate to the ULA in their locality and hopefully these questions over programme and strategy can be decided on at a national convention by the ULA’s membership in its totality.


23. que - April 11, 2011

“All the alliance’s elected representatives, constituent bodies and major figures are to the left of the programme pursued thus far. There is no-one with whom to compromise!”

Not so sure that the PBP tactic is mistaken. While the majority of reps and indeed members of ula parties are left maybe the compromise is not with more right wing advocates in the ULA but a compromise with the voters whom are not as left as the party.

If the PBP were being softly softly because they believed that there was no point in being too far ahead of the voters at the moment then tactically that would make seem to make sense.


revolutionaryprogramme - April 11, 2011

Well I guess that might make sense if the politics of a group/party were driven primarily by parliamentary electoral concerns.

But if what we want is a workers’ party that is able to play a positive role in the militant class struggle fight back against the attacks and point towards a socialist transformation of society then it will need to present a programme of what is necessary rather than what is perceived to be electorally popular.


que - April 11, 2011

for me the thing is the criteria of success. The KPI of the movement.

If electoral progress is one measure but not the key one then what are the other measures of transformation.

How can it be tracked that progress is being made?

For a party fully focussed on parliamentary work the seats is an metric, albeit flawed.

What metrics do you think are available? What milestones will demonstrate progress?


revolutionaryprogramme - April 11, 2011

It is true that votes in the election are one metric of success.

Some others would be membership numbers, paper sales, size of contingents on demonstrations, votes in union elections, votes on motions for industrial action, size of contingents on picket lines.


Tomboktu - April 11, 2011

What metrics do you think are available? What milestones will demonstrate progress?

Off the top of my head:

Number of worker-mananged firms (going up).

Gini coefficient (going down).

Number of unemployed people (going down, without it being attributable to emigration).

Waiting times for treatment (going down).

Poverty (eliminated, and using the 60% measurement).

Accessibility of public transport (increased).

Number of people involved in decision making in their communities (increased).

Number of people involved in decision making in their workplace (increased).

Proportion of imports that are fairtrade (increased).

Number of military flights using Irish airports (eliminated).

Number or rapes, racist assualts (down).

Like the Greens’ rhetoric, I don’t really care who does it — if that’s what counts, it’s just politics as sport.


que - April 12, 2011

cheers folks.
Tom – thats kinda along the lines that I had in mind but they are also large picture developments. Public good type developments which as you say once there its not a question of who did it but we all welcome the pprogress.
Of course to get alot of these things in place its reasonable to suggest that certain parties could do more than others.

Part of the metrics I was thinking of was how a party that didnt rely on a parliamentary measure or vote measure could assess its progress.

While a reducing gini coefficient etc might indicate an improvind wealth distrubtion it is as you say big picture.

But what would a party use to gage how its non-parliamentary work was progressing.

I guess RPs criteria are more in line with my party specific metrics but I agree with your list as a good measure of society.


24. D_D - April 11, 2011

Some clarification. It is not a tactic particular to the PBPA that the platform of the ULA be more moderate or broader than the full politics of its founding organisations. Whatever perceived differences there might be between what the PBPA and others might have put into the ULA platform there is general agreement that the ULA platform would not have to, and should not, equate to the full revolutionary marxist theory and politics of some of the founders.

It is not a matter of being ahead of the electorate, it is matter of relating to the consciousness of a potential active membership who are seen to be seeking a radical left centre of organisation and not – in any great numbers – a revoltionary party. Those seeking or ready for the latter can be happily accommodated in one of the already exisiting organisations, who will continue to offer themselves as currents in the new party.

Furthermore, it is not at all certain that “All the alliance’s elected representatives, constituent bodies and major figures are to the left of the programme pursued thus far. There is no-one with whom to compromise!” Do we include the South Tipperary Workers and Unemployed Action Group in this claim, or all the local supporters of Joan Collins in Dublin South Central or of RBB in Dun Laoghaire, or Declan Bree?

The adoption of an explicity socialist platform (i.e. mentioning the words ‘socialism’ and ‘socialist’) is not in itself a sign of how radical or revoltionary the programme or the party is.

The revolutionary workers’ party, as such, will not only have a revolutionary programme, written down, it will, if it approximates to any historical precedant, have thousands of members. It will be bigger than any party now existing in the country. That is the process we face, the road ahead, the work to hand, before we can start speculating about the inauguration of a revolutionary party.


revolutionaryprogramme - April 11, 2011

I’ll leave aside the question of whether or not the ULA initiating organisations have programmes that equate to “full revolutionary marxist theory and politics” to comment on the political method being presented here.

We are being told that the time is not right for the proposed new party to have a revolutionary programme – by implication it therefore should have some kind of reformist programme.

Why? So it can be immediately more popular seems to be one answer.

Or perhaps it is because the tasks immediately confronting us are not those of revolution.

But in the future, when it is required, we are reassured there will be a revolutionary party.

But there is silence on how this radical transformation from reformist to revolutionary politics will come about. There seems to be an implicit belief that the worker’s movement will simply learn through the experience of struggle and wide-spread support for revolutionary politics will develop without the need for any “sermons from the mount”.

This misses three essential and inter-related points.

Firstly we need to be aware that reformist politics do not simply becoming more and more radical and then at some point of extreme radicalism transmute into revolutionary politics. The reformist road and the revolutionary road may at times appear to run closely together, and thereby allow joint action around particular actions and campaigns and allow for working people to evaluate the two different roads in practice as well as theory. But the whole history of the class struggle shows us that these two paths have quite distinct destinations and the hotter the class struggle the more and more they depart from each other. This is something that has been known to the workers’ movement for over 100 years – first most clearly explained by Roas Luxemburg in her aptly titled work “Reform or Revolution”.

Secondly it should be recognised that there will be fierce political struggle between the proponents of reform and revolution as the class struggle heats up. We need have no fear that the reformist bureaucrats within the workers’ movment will be shy about launching sermon after sermon against the excesses of revolutionary politics. There can be no greater betrayal than for so-called “revolutionaries” to consciously limit their politics to those of reformist respectability in the search for short-term . This can only strengthen the reformist side in this political battle for the heart and minds of our class.

Thirdly this is not some “abstract” question for the distant future when the class struggle has developed to such heights that the potential for revolutionary insurrecton is obvious for all to see. The struggle between the politics of reform and revolution starts from right now. Will the mass movement in opposition to the attacks of the bosses and their government, that we all want to build, develop the militant class struggle bodies in opposition to the capitalist state that it will need to have any chance of defeating the attacks? The politics of reform say no – the politics of revolution say yes. The new party can not be agnostic on this vital question of class struggle.


25. Mark P - April 11, 2011

Updated list of meetings:

Mon 11th April:


Clare Daly TD SP
Cllr Gino Kenny PBP
Mick Murphy SP

Plaza Hotel, Tallaght 8pm

Tues 12th April:


Clare Daly TD SP
Cllr Brid Smith PBP
Cllr Terry Keleher SP

Milestone Inn, Balbriggan, 8pm

Thur 14th April:


Joe Higgins TD SP
Joan Collins TD PBP

Clonsilla Inn 8pm

Fri 15th April:


Joe Higgins TD SP
Joan Collins TD PBP
Conor MacLiam SP

Clubhouse Hotel 7.30pm

Mon 18th April:


Clare Daly TD SP
Kieran Allen PBP
Cllr Mick Barry SP

Metropole Hotel 8pm


Joe Higgins TD SP
Cllr Brid Smith PBP
Anne Foley PBP

James O’Keefe memorial 8pm


Cllr Matt Waine SP
Richard Boyd Barrett TD PBP
John Lyons PBP

Donnycarney Community Centre 8pm


Kevin McLoughlin SP
Joan Collins TD PBP
Cllr Brid Smith PBP
Cllr Pat Dunne PBP

St John Bosco, Drimnagh 8pm

Thur 19th April:

Dun Laoghaire

Clare Daly TD SP
Richard Boyd Barrett TD

Kingston Hotel 8pm


Paul Murphy MEP SP
Joan Collins TD PBP
Cllr Brid Smith PBP
Cllr Pat Dunne PBP

Village Inn, Crumlin 8pm

Wed 20th April:


Paul Murphy MEP SP
Cllr Brid Smith PBP
Conor Mac Liam SP

Venue tbc

Wed 27th April


Paul Murphy MEP SP
Cllr Brid Smith PBP
Ray Fitzpatrick SP

Hugh Lynch’s Kilbride St, 8pm

Thur 28th April:


Paul Murphy MEP SP
Kieran Allen PBP
Cian Prendiville SP

Absolute Hotel, Sir Harry’s Mall, 8pm


Clare Daly TD SP
Eddie Conlon PBP
Cllr Eugene Coppinger SP

Carnegie Court Hotel, 8pm

Dublin South East

Michael O’Brien SP
Richard Boyd Barrett TD PBP
Annette Mooney PBP

Pearse Centre, Pearse Street 8pm

Thur 5th May


Joe Higgins TD SP
Richard Boyd Barrett TD SP
Cllr Declan Bree SSA

Venue tbc

Mon 9th May

Dublin South

Cllr Ruth Coppinger SP
Richard Boyd Barrett TD PBP
Nicola Curry PBP

Balinteer St John’s GAA club 8pm


Cllr Matt Waine SP
Joan Collins TD PBP
Cllr Brid Smith PBP
Cllr Pat Dunne PBP

St Andrews Community Centre 8pm

Further meetings are being planned for Wexford and Gorey later this month and in mid to late May in Dublin North East, Drogheda, Waterford, Dublin Mid West, Galway, Tralee, Dundalk, Celbridge, Ballyfermot, South West Inner City, Dublin North City, Nenagh, Letterkenny

If your area does not feature and you would like to organise a meeting do get in touch with us. Likewise if you want to assist in building for any of the above meetings in terms of putting up posters/leaflets and you do not know who to contact send us a mail and we’ll put you in touch with the right people.

Establishment of ULA Branches and formal membership:

From this point on people will be encouraged to take out formal membership of the ULA. Membership cards will soon be available and the interim steering committee agreed an initial admission fee of €10 for waged and €5 for unwaged people would be sought.

The objective of these meetigs is to formally establish local ULA branches which should meet monthly thereafter and get active in the local and national campaigns and struggles we are going to face under this Fine Gael Labour government.


Mark P - April 11, 2011

If I’ve counted correctly, that’s 33 local meetings. Nothing if not ambitious.


D_D - April 12, 2011


ULA National Convention Saturday 25th June Liberty Hall

A National Convention of the United Left Alliance will take place at which a number of rallies and workshops will take place on a range of policy topics as well as dealing with the various arenas of campaign work our supporters are involved in. More information will be available soon.


revolutionaryprogramme - April 12, 2011

“rallies and workshops”?

is that really the appropriate format for a conference to discuss (decide on?) the programme of the newly formed organisation?


Mark P - April 12, 2011

Alan, the exact format of the convention is still being discussed.

As I understand it, it is likely to include some decision making but it may not be where a full programme for the ULA is voted on – that will need a lot of discussion throughout the ULA and it will be very difficult for a single national meeting to provide enough time and space for that. At the moment, there aren’t structures for that discussion to go on in the kind of detail that’s necessary before the convention, so what I would guess we will see is the establishment of branches and a convention which will be the start of discussion about programme rather than the conclusion. Workshops – a format I am borderline allergic to – actually would be useful for that, when you remember that there a huge range of issues to discuss.


revolutionaryprogramme - April 12, 2011

Fair enough Mark, what you outline sounds pretty much right – its just I’ve seen a lot of these kind of “rallies and workshops” type meetings which amount to nothing substantive that when I saw the phrase it had me a bit concerned.

I’m still a bit unsure exactly what it is I will be joining on Monday… 🙂


Scabby Rabbit - April 12, 2011

Limerick meeting is actually in the Pery Hotel on Glentworth St, not the Absolute.


26. que - April 11, 2011

hat tip to Anne Foley who has Joe Higgins and Claire Daly appearing in Newmarket. An area of cork which has been sorely neglected through the dull routine of FF/FG politics.

Well done Anne


27. Bill - April 12, 2011

*FTP – I mean no offence to CLR, if asking for an agreed upon debating forum site is a bit out of order I understand and don’t post/remove this.*

Have to say, very fascinating debate going on here. And of a good standard. However, different issues are getting muddled. And all issues that need lengthy discussing *before* the founding conference. As great as CLR is (and I’m sure its grateful for the traffic 😉 ) maybe we should be thinking of moving this to a forum and have separate threads for each point. Internationalism, tactics, programmes, wording of programmes, structures, “unresolved points from last nights townhall meeting..” et al

Then come the founding congress we can have speakers summarizing each thread or something. I don’t think something as important as the ULA’s founding should be left to a speech by X, a speech by Z and a raise of hands deciding an issue based on which tendency is bigger going into it. An exhaustive, nonpartisan comradely deliberation is required.

Any suggestions on a chosen forum? pw.org? p.ie? other?


D_D - April 13, 2011

This site has been specialising in the ULA:



28. C. Flower - April 12, 2011

Someone pointed me at this discussion. Of course, you’re very welcome to use the Political World ULA subforum here –
There is already an archive of interesting threads on the prospects for a new party of the left –
but no offence taken if you go elsewhere.


29. WorldbyStorm - April 12, 2011

None taken by us here one way or the other. 🙂

I’d largely agree, Bill.

I’ve always imagined the CLR, or indeed any other blogs/forums as a bit like shooting the breeze and to do so in an open context where people both inside a formation or beyond it can interact.

For more the sort of forensic approach that’s required in the way you describe it is something that the ULA itself should establish if it wants to.


revolutionaryprogramme - April 12, 2011

I tend to agree with that, though of course those internal discussions will no doubt be replicated on the various blogs to some degree.

This will especially be the case to the extent the new organisation is able to make an impact in the wider class struggle as is projected.


30. revolutionaryprogramme - April 12, 2011

One thing that I do find confusing is that right in the middle of this national series of ULA membership meetings we have this (found it on Indymedia while looking for a report on any of the ULA meetings) we have the the SWP building itself as the “politics of resistance” – what then is the ULA?

Killarney: Think there’s No Alternative? Think Again
“A Socialist Gathering”: Introducing the politics of resistance and the SWP.

VENUE: The Malton Hotel, Killarney, Saturday 16th April 3pm-5pm


revolutionaryprogramme - April 13, 2011

And the SP seem to be doing it as well:

Public meeting with Joe Higgins

bailouts, unemployment cuts…& the socialist alternative

Free Public meeting discussing the issues of bailouts, unemployment , cuts and the socialist alternative .
8pm Wednesday 20th of April upstairs in Richardsons Eyre square


31. revolutionaryprogramme - April 13, 2011

Nothing wrong with this in the abstract I suppose but with it happening right in the middle of this big push towards the setting up of the new workers’ party which is supposedly going to make the SP & SWP redundant as separate public organisations it does make we wonder how committed to the project the SP & SWP really are.

How the respective organisations present themselves at the May Day demonstrations will be another useful indicaton of the committment towards building the ULA.

Not that I’m arguing for total dissapearance of the public face of the SP & SWP but at the same time the balance between this and the ULA does indicate the indicate the degree of commitment to the new project.


Scabby Rabbit - April 13, 2011

Each area has the one launch and it’s over two months until the national convention.

I think it’s reasonable that the groups continue their work on the ground. I don’t view it as a sign of non-commitment.


32. D_D - April 13, 2011

That’s reasonbale. But what about ‘Enough!’. A clear distraction from/duplication of the ULA’a big push.


Scabby Rabbit - April 13, 2011

Well yes, I’d agree with your earlier sentiments on that front.


33. Jim Monaghan - April 13, 2011

I cannot see a fully worked out program being agreed that quickly.The new formation will be a work in progress. I see it moving on towards a new workers party. The idea that someone or a group or collection of groups can emerge with a fully worked out program will not fly.The members have to be involved in a real way with its formation through wideranging debates and discussions about what it means in practice.That way ownership of the program would be real and it would mean more that the mantras which are sometimes called programs (for example programs which are not guides to action).there will be areas which for the time being will be avoided. Unfortunate but a necessity for a period. (EG the national question. And can I say that the military mistakes of the last 40 years created a basis for mistaken ideas on the national struggle and moving on from that will not be an easy task).
If ULA has a basic statement of principles, I will be happy for the time being. If it agrees a program of work which includes electoral, workplace, trade union and community struggles and a framework which allows for ULA involvement, I will be very happy.(and an agreement on how and where the platforms operate without tripping over each other and ULA. Existing bad practices and oneupmanship has not totally left the scene.ULA is a major step in overcoming problems but this is a process not a Damascus type conversion.). If it continues to look outward to recruit new members esp. from areas of struggle, act as a pole of attraction for those inside and outside of existing formations who want to fightback, I will be happy.
But it is a fragile formation so carefully as she goes. Let it get a bit more robust before we let the accellarator go.
I know the CPI have met ULA, hopefully this develops. I know the ISN worked in the election, are they considering their position. I someways a broad statement of principles that is not too restrictive leaves the door open. A process means not necessarily ambiguity on principles but a method of securing a feeling of ownership by everyone of the ULA program.
I wonder what workshops are being considered.


34. Shay Guevara - April 13, 2011

I hope the organisers of the Convention are aware that Neil Diamond is playing the Aviva on June 25th – supported by Ballyfermot’s own Mary Byrne, no less. There could be a serious clash of loyalties for some people if discussions drag on!

I wonder has anyone any guesstimates for when an actual party might emerge? I know dates can’t be fixed in advance, and anything can happen along the way. But say if all goes fairly well, might we be looking at a United Left Party (or whatever it’s called in the end) in 2012, for the sake of argument? Taking things one step at a time makes sense, of course, but long-term aspirations can sometimes drift away. So are people involved in this envisaging any rough timescale?


Jack Jameson - April 13, 2011

If (or is it ‘when’?) a new left party emerges from the ULA experience, what happens to the SP and SWP? Do they dissolve or will they be parties within a party?


Jim Monaghan - April 13, 2011

The idea is that they become platforms.Hopefully avoiding the SLP experience where the platforms had more and better quality publications than the SLP itself. I would like a situation where the platforms are not permanent. They arise, try and change party policy on specific issues and then dissolve, tendencies rather than cliques.But the SP and SWP (et al) have heritages which will be hard to leave behind for good reasons as well as not so good. Both groups have done excellent work on their own and have much to be proud off (eg ULA itself).
We cannot undo history and start from a fresh slate. We do what we can in the circumstances we find ourselves.
“Men make history, but not in circumstances of their own choosing”.ULA is being born in specific circumstances.


Mark P - April 13, 2011

What publications would you like to see the ULA have?

What purpose would each publication serve?

I mean those questions seriously, by the way.

This is 2011, not 1905. There are alternatives to print publications and across the world of publishing print newspapers and periodicals are in circulation freefall. I’m not necessarily arguing against print publications, but I do think that people should think about this a bit rather than simply assuming that publication models adopted by small socialist groups in the 1970s are necessarily ones appropriate to a new party or alliance at this moment in time.


35. Jim Monaghan - April 13, 2011

I was referring to the SLP. I think in the context of the ULA the publications of the ULA should have priority as regards labour, quality. I think blogs etc. would suffice for platforms etc.But getting there would not be easy and I would not rush it getting to an ideal state.
Waving a magic wand will not get a revolutionary program fully worked out and accepted. Likewise moving beyond the existing groups will take time and will be a process. I accept the existing reality and would regard it as counterproductive thinking it was possible to wish them out of existence with a wave of the hand.
I don’t know what the situation is at the top of ULA. I would hope it is as good as I saw it during the campaign. I worry about a drift back to rival fronts on issues. I would think that diplomacy is needed to avoid what are minor differences developing into worse.
I think there is huge potential with the ULA.I see a real challenge in a number of fronts to the class collaborators eg the trade unions from an ULA


Mark P - April 13, 2011

Jim, that’s more of a point about the division of efforts you’d like to see between the overall party and the component organisations.

On that issue, I think it’s very much dependent on context. An electoral agreement between organisations (the starting point) is different from an alliance of organisations and individuals (the point we are moving towards in the short term) and that’s different in turn from a party. The context doesn’t just include the organisational form, but the nature of the other forces involved and, crucially, the politics espoused by the alliance or party.

What I was actually asking was what publications you want to see the ULA have and why? There seems to me to be something of an underlying assumption amongst some independent activists who’ve been around the left a long time that the ULA should start producing a regular print newspaper for example. That might be a good idea or it might not, but it strikes me that as an assumption it stems more from habit than from an assessment as to whether one would be a good use of resources.


revolutionaryprogramme - April 13, 2011

I think Mark is right here.

I think it is clear that a mass (or at least semi-mass) workers’ party, which we all hope this process will result in, will require all kinds of publications relating to the activities it is involved in, including a central publication (probably in both print and online versions).

However I don’t think such a central publication would be appropriate for this new semi-alliance/semi-party given the low level of programmatic agreement it appears it will be formed around. The “publications” that will be most important will be internal ones, presumably online, that provide a framework for political discussion around programme and deciding on areas of activity.


Jim Monaghan - April 13, 2011

I am not that enamoured with print.We are in a different era. Blogs such as Cedarlounge etc. serve a similar function, if not even better.A bit like internet banking superceding a branch network.
But like others I worry when I see meetings which should be under the ULA banner being under the flags of component orgs. Perhaps I worry too much.
I want a revolutionary program with a party which buys into it. Not a set of words without the means of applying any part of it.
Aside from existing disagreements life will throw up challenges. The important thing is that we have means of discussing and reaching agreement.
These are definitely not “normal” times. We are facing a future of cutbacks that will make the FF budget look mild. Creating a vehicle that can galvanise an opposition is our task. Deciding what is important and what is secondary is important. Learning how to work together even more effectively than the amazing start of ULA is necessary.


Mark P - April 13, 2011


I understand your concern, but there are, if I’ve counted correctly, 33 public meetings scheduled around the country under the ULA banner over the next seven or eight weeks. Not counting the convention. That’s an enormous number by comparison with the number of meetings organised under the names of affiliated organisations.


revolutionaryprogramme - April 13, 2011

The development of the full programme of the new party will clearly be the result of an extended period of discussion and testing out through joint activity.

However I do think that it is important that the aim of the party is decided on fairly quickly as this will frame that programmatic discussion.

In this regard I think it is vitally important that the new organisation openly commit itself to the aim of the socialist transformation of society.

The programmatic discussion would then be about how to get to that socialist aim from where we are now.


36. Bill - April 14, 2011


The April 19th meetings are down(everywhere) as a Thursday. The 19th is actually a Tuesday. So are the Dun Laoghaire and Crumlin meetings on the Tuesday or the Thursday?


37. Joe - April 14, 2011

ULA website says Tuesday 19th for both.


38. Fight the cuts - April 14, 2011


Couple points. Firstly, the CPI seem to have been approached. Are there any other groups going to be approached and in what timescale?

Also, I don’t think a programme will be too big of an issue. Once local branches are sorted, all it will take is the steering committee to do a draft and send it to the local branches. They can all make points viz changes that are necessary. New document can be drafted with this in mind, then a convention to discuss the new document and debate intricacies.

On the publication issue. It’s premature at this point but eventually it will have to be a central publication, media etc


39. tomasoflatharta - May 20, 2011

Brendan Young Article : United Left Alliance “A Work in Progress” – Steps Towards a New Party



40. Current Internal Debates within the ULA - June 7, 2011

[…] […]


41. revolutionaryprogramme - June 10, 2011

Critical analysis of the SP’s latest article on the ULA “United Left Alliance must argue for socialist policies” – http://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/2011/06/10/sp-article-united-left-alliance-must-argue-for-socialist-policies/


42. revolutionaryprogramme - June 16, 2011

My notes from Tuesday night’s Cork ULA branch meeting – http://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/2011/06/16/%E2%80%9Cthe-ula-is-not-an-organisation%E2%80%9D-says-sp-leader/

On the basis of the arguments made at this meeting is seems that the SP & SWP are committed to blocking any attempts to move beyond being just an alliance.


43. LamuzNick - October 10, 2011

Yes, thanks


44. C. Flower - October 10, 2011

Anything happening in the ULA apart from canvassing in Dublin West ?

Any recruitment campaign, membership, or work on a programme?


revolutionaryprogramme - October 13, 2011

Well in Cork the main thing is participating in the meetings trying to build an anti-household tax campaign as something more than just the existing left activists. Some mild success so far. The thinking from the SP/SWP seems to be that growth will come out of participation in this campaign (with the spin for the SWP of also having their fingers in the Enough! pie). We are also going to building for as big a contingent as possible from Cork for the ULA initiated national demo against austerity on Nov 26th.

So all organisational/activist stuff no real discussion over programme – still very much in the alliance framework where programme is for the constituent groups rather than the ULA as a unitary body.


Cass Flower (@cassflower) - October 13, 2011

They’re fair points.
Is the ULA supporting and working for the October 15th events or any of the demonstrations against the IMF ?


revolutionaryprogramme - October 13, 2011

Well the SWP component is heavily into that and the Cork branch gave members the option of going up to Dublin the the Enough! demo on the 15th or to canvass for Ruth on the 22nd – a more-or-less open SWP vs SP split in empahsis.

Anyone going to the Enough! demo will be doing so as an individual as my understanding is that there isn’t going to be an organised ULA presence.


45. socialistfeminist - October 13, 2011

why has the ULA not as yet have a constitution. If they need help Eirigi have quite a good bunreacht up on their website. As a ULA voter I don’t think that it is good enough for my vote to not bother writing down any rules especially against sexism and other forms of social discrimination and how to treat people in a way that could be considered socialist ie. with Fairness, Equality, Sharing (sharing information,sharing the floor,sharing the chair) instead of allowing dublin social cliques to behave like hogs. I’d also object to the discount for using a credit card to book a place at the ULA conference and find this blatant form of social discrimination reprehensible.


pat - October 13, 2011

Lighten up.


revolutionaryprogramme - October 13, 2011

LIghten up?

Are you saying she shouldn’t be concerned with these issues?

The ULA has a real problem with being male dominated and it would be a shame if we didn’t take on a organisational culture that confronted the casual, and sometimes not so casual, sexism and other forms of discrimination that permiate Irish society and all the talk of inclusiveness we heard from the top tables was indeed just talk.


WorldbyStorm - October 14, 2011

I agree people should be concerned with these issues that socialistfeminist raises. Credit cards for a start are problematic, and issues of accessibility are central to the left discourse. We all know from our various formations how esasy it is for hidden, and sometimes not so hidden, gender imbalance or geographical proximity of in-groups can lead to negative outcomes.


pat - October 14, 2011

No, of course I’m not saying she/ he shouldn’t be concerned with sexism or any other kinds of discrimination.

What I am saying, is that as a “voter”, she/ he shouldn’t get so wound up about what the ULA writes down. Voters don’t have rights to demand such things anyway, but what she/ he means by “rules” is unclear. However, imo she/ he is actually just trying to have a go at what she/ he sees as “dublin social cliques that behave like dogs”, and is using these important issues as cover for petty jibes.

I would also point out that having a credit card is not the only way to book things online, but to descibe this non-issue as “reprehensible” is pathetic.

The fact that you jump on board this ridiculous comment says a lot a about you revolutionaryprogramme.


revolutionaryprogramme - October 14, 2011

Pat, I don’t endorse every aspect of socialistfeminist’s comments and don’t necessarily agree with her answers to the problems she outlines (though I know from a discussion with her on my blog that we do agree on the general framework over questions of age of consent and how to relate to workers in the sex industry).

What I was responding to was your completely off-hand “lighten up” comment which I took to mean that all the issues she had raised were of no real importance. And I think at least some, if not all, of them are.


46. WorldbyStorm - October 14, 2011

By the way revolutionaryprogramme, nice to see you back!


revolutionaryprogramme - October 14, 2011

I’ve been here – just lurking in the background…


47. C. Flower - October 14, 2011

I went to an ULA meeting and at the starting time of the meeting I was the only woman there, although there were a couple who came late.
This is not normal in a political organisation – or should not be accepted as normal. Yet in the SP, there are prominent women in positions of leadership. It’s hard to fathom, unless it’s simply a reflection of wider Irish society in which a few very strong women make it through while the majority remain disadvantaged.
I’m against feminist issues being used to derail socialist groups, but in this case, it seems that the pattern must be symptomatic of some kind of social conservatism that must affect the politics of the movement beyond feminism. RP – in what way are the SWP and PBP “deeply into” the “Occupy” actions ? Are they taking part? They seem to be running and promoting their own events. Have they called for support and taken part, does anyone know?
Has the ULA? What is the analysis of the “Occupy” phenomenon, from the ULA, SP and SWP ?


revolutionaryprogramme - October 14, 2011

Apologies for causing confusion. I was not talking about the “Occupy” actions but rather the Enough! demonstrations which are also against the IMF/EU – though they are indeed quite separate actions.

The most recent Irish “Occupy” action took place after our Cork branch meeting so I can’t say for certain what the attitude to it would be. I do know that subsequent to that we got an email advertising the Enough! demonstration and canvassing for Ruth as upcoming as events in Dublin but there was no mention of any of the “Occupy” actions – including the one apparently due to happen in Cork tomorrow.

I do know that the in response to the attempt to have a “Real Democracy” event in Cork, in solidarity with the events in Spain, that the SP advertised it on a leaflet they were handing out in town that day and their comrades attended the event. I don’t remember there being a specific SWP presence (which is not to say there weren’t any SWP members present) though at least one of their members was very enthusiastic about the concept at the time.

We also had one of the organisers of the Cork “Real Democracy” event address the ULA branch meeting at the time and people who encouraged to participate.

But there is very little coverage of these recent events in either the SP or SWP press that I am aware of so I am just as much in the dark about their exact attitude.

My own views would coincide pretty closely with the recent WSM article – http://www.wsm.ie/c/politics-averted-occupy-movement


Mark P - October 14, 2011

C. Flower: If you think that a random branch meeting having only one woman present is particularly unusual in the mainstream political parties, you have clearly been fortunate enough not to have much contact with them!

As for “social conservatism”, you are entirely off base on that. There is nothing socially conservative about any of the groups in the ULA. However, it is true that all of them have significantly more male members than female ones. Which is also true of the mainstream political parties and interestingly even more obviously true of the little anarchist groups.

The left tends to stand the most female candidates and has has the highest percentage of women in elected office. But, as socialists rather than liberals, it should hardly surprise us that the mere existence of female, ahem, “role models” doesn’t automatically translate into equal participation by women. There are structural issues in society which discourage full involvement in organised politics of almost any stripe by women. Some of that is beyond the control of small activist groups, but there are also many things that we can do to include and involve women and there is a responsibility on all of us in that regard.

I’d welcome a constructive discussion about that.


revolutionaryprogramme - October 14, 2011

Regarding the issue of the lack of women at ULA meetings. It is a real problem which I’ve highlighted in my blog reports of our branch meetings. The highest proportion of women was at the most recent meeting when it was 30%. This does reflect the local SP organisation a bit because they are by far the dominant group and are almost exclusively male.


48. D_D - October 14, 2011

A quick summary, and maybe clarification, on the various general anti-austerity protest initiatives, as far as I understand the situation.

In Dublin there are the Occupy Dame Street camp, this Saturday’s ‘Enough!’ march, a proposal from the ULA TD’s for a pre-budget demonstration, a follow-up proposal from the Dublin Council of Trade Unions for a pre-budget demonstration on 26th November and a second Spectacle of Defiance and Hope on 3rd December.

The Occupy Dame Street camp, though not as “leaderless” as they would like to believe, is sort of especially seperate from the other events, attracting new and younger people and explicitly debarring political (with a big ‘P’) and even trade union involvement.

In September the five ULA TDs wrote to various parties, trade union and community bodies and campaigns proposing a pre-budget demonstartion and convening a meeting to discuss it. http://www.unitedleftalliance.org/ula-newsletter-september/ The Dublin Council of Trade Unions, which sent an observer to the ULA convened meeting (which was very small), proceeeded to make a call of its own for a pre-budget demonstration, of the parties, unions, commmunity groups and campaigns, on 26th November. As far as I know this was the first mention of a specific date as the ULA had not specified one. (The DCTU call has also been directed at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and a meeting arranged with them.)

Nevertheless the DCTU attended the second ULA convened forum (last week) and a DCTU executive member has been asked by that forum to liaise with the various initiatives with a view to co-ordination. Though the DCTU was careful to produce its own initiative, through a Motion at its September delegate meeting, rather than simply respond to the TDs’ call (while kinda responding to it!), its intention, like the intention of the TDs, is to have a large, broadbased demonstration called by some kind of umbrella body (with perhaps some hope that that might be the ICTU). As I understand it both the DCTU executive and the ULA now agree that any demonstration should be a joint project of many organisations rather each expecting the other to come aboard their particular initiative.

Like the DCTU and ULA inititiaves the Spectacle of Defiance is hoping also to involve the trade unions in their community-based repeat of last December’s event. There is already an organising body in place from last year (which is also producing a second ‘book’). Like last year there will probably be a recommendation against political, and even tarde union, banners, for a Macnas style ‘alternative’ to supposedly tired protest. The Spectacle of Defiance have not agreed to come in on the 26th November proposal and are proceeding with their event on 3rd December. There is some discussion about shifting 26th November to 3rd December, but it is clear from remarks at yesterday’s SIPTU Community Forum that the Spectacle of Defiance is going ahead as such and in its established form.

It is more than likely that the DCTU and the TDs would consider their work done if the ICTU actually called a pre budget mass demonstration. That is less than likely, though not impossible (and after David Begg’s interview on ‘Morning Ireland’ this morning, ahead of his meeting with the Troika on Monday, in which he said, when asked, that Congress would be talking about cuts of “a little less” than the Government’s original €3.6 billion, I’m not clear what Congress would be protesting about). An ICTU officer attended the first ULA-convened meeting and was negative about the whole idea of a demonstration. (At the September DCTU delegate meeting it was reported that the General Secretary of a major union [not my own] was opposed to the Motion for 26th November, which was nevertheless passed unanimously.)

I don’t know if ‘Enough!’ was represented at either of the meetings to attempt a co-ordinated effort. There’s no doubt that they would row in behind any demonstration called by an umbrella, at least nominally, and might even do a lot of the leg work for it. ‘Enough!’ have kept their 15th October march in place, and it was probably a bit late to drop it anway. At the recent TUAN conference Kieran Allen struck a very unitary note by calling for a joining up of all projected protests into a big pre-budget showing on the very logical grounds that the one thousand or so that each might bring out would become many thousands with a united pitch.

The relation of ‘Enough!’ to the ULA is a large topic in itself. It is natural that those not so close to either might think there is a direct connection. The problem, from the ULA point of vew, is that the connection is not close enough. Or rather that the connection between the ULA and a broad campaigning movement against austerity is not close enough, therefore weakening the development of the ULA, because one of the components of the ULA set up its own campaigning subsidiary after the election. The obvious step should have been for the newly-combined forces of the ULA to launch a broad, (genuinely) independent, active and wide-ranging campaign against the cuts – organisationally along the lines of the Anti-Household and Water Tax Campaign for example. It is not to be wondered at that the ULA has never had a ULA presence (as such) at ‘Enough!’ events because other elements of the ULA consider ‘Enough!’ (originally presented to the ULA as a fait accompli) to have taken its job.

All efforts, work and initiatives should be acknowledged and the intention is often a thoroughly honest one. Things springing up all over can be the sign of a real movement from below. Yet few on the left would argue against the good sense of combining for a decent show of strength in a pre-budget demonstration. (I have not mentioned Sinn Féin in any of this only because they don’t seem to have addressed the proposal at all yet).


Danger Mouse - October 14, 2011

You got the wrong end of the stick here D_D.

The problem is not left unity – the problem is who gets to lead it.

Both of the main Trotskyist groupings within the Irish Left want to make sure that they lead any left unity that comes about.

The fact that the rest of the Left can’t stand them – Mark P is a good reason why, as is Barry O’Brien – just doesn’t get through to the groupings, who see themselves as the obvious leaders in any protest – regardless of whether people want them as such.

The occupy Dame Street protest is a good example. Democracy Now organised a rally for 15 October at 2pm. Rnough! had theirs on 8th but moves it to the 15th (and made it 1pm) at the same meeting point (garden of remembrance).

They fucking elbow their way in to everything, with all other voices drowned out by the decidedly middle-class vowels of Swiss Tony and his sidekick Rich Boy Barrett.

They have been asked not to participate in an organised fashion on Dame Street – invididul members are more than welcome – but this isn’t god enough for the Trotskyist groupings as again, the issue is not unity, but leadership.

They want to lead EVERYTHING and in the process they kill genuine protest before it begins.

That’s the problem.

It’s not about unity.

It’s about unity under the leadership of the middle class vowels of Richard Boyd Barrett and his kin.


D_D - October 14, 2011

I think you got the wrong end of what I wrote. Maybe I wasn’t clear enough.

It IS about unity, against the divisive domination of any particular interests. Unity: you know that cartoon of all the little fish configuring into a big fish to chase the once bigger fish away?

If that is true, that the ‘Enough!’ march was moved from 8th to 15th just to clash with a previously organised Democracy Now rally, it is another sorry episode on a long road to Nowheresville.

Particular accents have nothing essentially to do with it. Some of my favourite anarchists have similar vowel sounds.


Pádraig Madden - October 14, 2011

“The occupy Dame Street protest is a good example. Democracy Now organised a rally for 15 October at 2pm. Rnough! had theirs on 8th but moves it to the 15th (and made it 1pm) at the same meeting point (garden of remembrance).

They fucking elbow their way in to everything, with all other voices drowned out by the decidedly middle-class vowels of Swiss Tony and his sidekick Rich Boy Barrett.” – Danger Mouse

Can’t resist this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5ZcwxtHGKc&f


Danger Mouse - October 14, 2011

Unfortunately D_D, it is true. This is what I mean about this being about leadership not unity.

The ULA constituents are being asked to take a back seat IN THE INTEREST OF UNITY and they just cant do it, because the idea that they are the true vanguard is in their DNA. It’s what they’re all about. They can’t just be a part of a movement, they have to be its leadership.

It is that which pisses everyone else off. They march in, take over, wreck it, and walk away, chasing the next bandwagon that catches their eye.

If it was about unity, then why the insistence on leading?

It is an incredible bulwark against unity – the idea that unity MUST MEAN swp leadership – one that the rest of us are all too aware of, and one which the ULA and its associates fail to recognize or appreciate.

for the rest of us, though, it is as clear as day.

By the way, when you have Trotskyists acting like c***s online, as is frequently the case on this site and others, is it really that surprising that the rest of the Left doesn’t want anything to do with them formally?

you act like an asshole long enough and frequently enough and guess what, people start treating you as an asshole.

Padraig, that clip is too funny!


WorldbyStorm - October 14, 2011

Look, I have serious sympathy for those who take a non Leninist approach, and fair dues to Occupy Dame Street, but can people just moderate their tone. D_D is a good comrade and someone whose opinions are always worth listening to.


Mark P - October 15, 2011

Personally, I think that Danger Mouse is a wonderful advert for a certain type of politics that marries self righteousness with incoherence. I sort of like him, in other words.

D_D is of course right that the squabbling between the SWP and a small self-deluding subset of the ODW protesters who fancy themselves as censors is embarrassing, childish and unnecessary on both sides. Although as he’s much nicer than me, he phrases it differently.


Danger Mouse - October 15, 2011

“the squabbling between the SWP and a small self-deluding subset of the ODW protesters”

Oh I think you are being hard on the socialist Party there Mark P.

Self-deluding they may be but with two TDs and an MEP I wouldn’t exactly call them small, at least not in terms of Irish left organisations.

The squabbling between them and the SWP, though, has been unseemly. That is true.


Ciarán - October 15, 2011

I’m not particularly interested in defending the SWP but my understanding is that the Enough! demonstration was pushed back a week because the troika visit had been delayed by a week as well. I think that’s what they said at any rate.


Mark P - October 15, 2011

See what I mean about dangermouse? Here’s an adult who apparently thinks “That’s what you are, but what am I?” is a witty comeback. An adult! How can you not be sort of fond of him?


49. Cass Flower (@cassflower) - October 14, 2011

See you all there so.


50. Pádraig Madden - October 14, 2011

I hear ya Danger Mouse! A similiar set up confronts us up here which I’ll let you judge from the comments here: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=259949774042832 particularly following questions from a WSM member.. Couldn’t be bothered elaborating it as myself and several Belfast based comrades are heading down early for the meeting of FEE (some might skive off for a bit to Conor McCabes talk) and to check out Occupied Dame Street. Speaking of FEE and sticking to the thread: http://weareragbags.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/ula-in-education-discuss/


51. Anthony O'Donnell - October 15, 2011

Almost one year on from when it was formed, and seven months on from its membership recruitment drive, still no democratically-elected committee within the ULA. It is still being run by its provisional council.

History is moving on while the egos squabble.

How much longer can it last? What credibility will the participants have once it implodes?


revolutionaryprogramme - October 15, 2011

As one of the non-aligned/independent members of the ULA I do find the slow pace frustrating but I don’t think we will have to wait much longer to find out if the project will live or die. Either the ULA will be able to play a useful role in the expected coming upswing in class struggle which will see it grow with the SP/SWP becoming just two large tendencies within a larger heterogeneous whole or it will die. We will almost certainly know the outcome within the next 6 months – assuming the simmering undercurrent of the fight for control between the SP & SWP doesn’t break out into the open and destroy the whole thing.


52. acknefton - October 15, 2011

i think the ULA is best understood by considering an analogy to newscorp, the murdoch media empire where you have
a ( voting) shareholders who are the murdoch family and
b (non voting) shareholders who put up most of the money.

in the ULA you have
a members (SWP / SP leadership)
b members non aligned members who are expected to act like good footsoldiers and do as they are told


53. Julian Assandwich - October 16, 2011

I’ve heard the argument put forward that the leadership of the SP/SWP are waiting for a massive influx of new members before progressing the movement. Lets look at that angle.

1. The massive influx is not happening.
-The numbers of radicals in the campuses are sadly depleting rather than increasing.
-Young people outside of college are emigrating en-mass rather than staying and signing up to the white knight of the ULA.
– Unemployment has peaked.
– The longterm unemployed now make up 60 percent of the unemployed. Likewise, there has not been the expected rush to the party or components

2. There is no party to “join”. There is no structure, no organisation, no communication, no lead, no literature, no policies. The ULA exists as an idea expressed in a document and the text on a membership card one pays 10 euro for(what was that spent on?).

This leads us to conclude that the ULA has to go out and fight for new people and give them something to actually join. It needs to provide a means for interested people to further their political education.

It seems the SP and SWP agree with all of the above as that is what they are doing for their respective organisations.


54. Shay Brennan - October 16, 2011

The fact that Sean Gallagher is looking like becoming president and that there has been no sustained fight against austerity would not suggest an upswing in class struggle is likely.


55. Danger Mouse - October 16, 2011

Very telling the marches yesterday.

The ULA-linked march gets around 400 people. And that was with the support of UNITE and other unions.

The non-aligned ULA-march manages to get over 1,000 with virtually no publicity.

People want left unity – they just dont want the ULA and its bunch of parliamentarians to lead it.


DublinDilettante - October 17, 2011

Life’s a lot easier when you can just make shit up, isn’t it? “ULA-linked” is a nice way of saying “nothing to do with the ULA at all”. I was on the Occupy Dame Street march, and 1,000 is a wild overestimate. There were roughly half that present, possibly a bit more. And mostly hipsters shouting hashtags (with some good and sincere people mixed in). Nothing to do with “left unity” or indeed the left at all. The movement is avowedly anti-leftist. The positions it adumbrates are left-liberal at best, and creeping rightwards by the day.


Anthony O'Donnell - October 17, 2011


“nothing to do with the ULA at all”

So I suppose, by that rationale, that the ULA will be accepting Sean Gallagher’s statement that because he isn’t actually using Fianna Fail’s name that he has ‘nothing to do with Fianna Fail at all’?

Either way, the Jesuits would certainly approve of the logic.


Mark P - October 17, 2011

I think perhaps Dublin Dilettante that you are letting yourself be provoked by Danger Mouse’s rather obvious and dishonest axe-grinding.

It’s particularly amusing to see so obsessed a critic of the SWP as he resorting to something the SWP are so often accused of: Lying about the numbers on a demonstration. But in fact the numbers on the demonstration were respectable enough, with a few hundred, and there’s no need to be dismissive of the people who showed up just because their self-appointed advocate is obnoxious and malicious.

You are right, of course, that the protest had nothing to do with “left unity”. That was in no way part of its agenda and indeed it hardly could be given that a small number of the people involved are obsessed with trying to censor the larger sections of the left. The drive to censorship comes partly from a fear of more radical and coherent politics and partly from the experience a small number of long term activists has of being out-organised and out-argued in previous campaigns and movements. However, while this is unfortunate and should be argued against, these “non-leadership” leaders are not representative of many of the people who turned up and there is no reason to needlessly aggravate that wider group.


Mark P - October 17, 2011

Anthony, as you know, the Enough campaign is a project initiated by the SWP, which the rest of the ULA is not involved with.

Describing it as a ULA thing is like describing a strike by SIPTU as an Amnesty International thing because SIPTU is affiliated to Amnesty. It’s an SWP thing. It costs your argument nothing to be precise.


56. Danger Mouse - October 17, 2011

The fact that a march organised by ULA members and a ULA TD can be described as having “nothing to do with the ULA at all” pretty much sums up the Left Unity currently present within the ULA.

How long will it be before all those new members – and by new members I mean those who weren’t members of the four groupings within the ULA prior to its paper formation – run out of patience with the decidedly anti-democratic nature of the ULA and leave?

By the way dublin dilletante, if you were on the Real Democracy Now! march, does that mean that you didn’t bother joining Richard Boyd Barrett on his march to the margins of history?

such unity!


Dr.Nightdub - October 17, 2011

DangerMouse, you’ve now mentioned RBB in your comments more than you’ve mentioned IMF. Isn’t that a little telling?


57. C. Flower - October 17, 2011

If Occupy Dame Street is drifting rightwards (is it? there is frustration there too about lack of leadership and disorganisation) and if there is no influx of people rushing to join the ULA without being asked to, could that possibly be anything to do with the abdication of responsibility by the left to provide genuine leadership, and to do the on the ground work that this entails?

Unity between opposing left groups in Ireland is not “the issue.” The issue is to find a right path to putting a stick into the spokes of “austerity” and to offer an alternative to capitalism, and mobilising people to do that. Along the way, all kinds of principled alliances should be built.

There is a semi-formal unaligned group in the ULA. Is it not time for them to make a formal call on the ULA Steering Committee to produce a timetable for work on a programme and organisational form, and for recall of the convention, followed by elections?


58. D_D - October 17, 2011

There’s an attempted explanation above from me of how and why ‘Enough!’ and the ‘Enough!’ march is/was not linked to the ULA as such but to one of the component oganisations of the ULA.

On numbers, I missed both marches but at 1 pm I saw less than 100 people at Parnell Square. The turn out appears to have risen after that. At 4 pm I attended a (qualitatively) impressive rally at the Central Bank, which presumably followed the second march. There were no more than 400 people there at that stage. What was impressive was the amount of new, young faces. The gathering was decidedly ‘non-proletarian’ but in an exciting ‘May ’68’ kind of way.

The ULA should have nothing but a welcome for Occupy Dame Street. (Has it said anything to the contrary?) The balance between spontaneity and organisation can and will be sorted out as things move on. But not without acrimony if some, at both ends, insist on looking at it as purely an anarchist v. trotskyist thing.

Some of the comments here about the ULA needing to get itself together without too much further delay would find echos inside the ULA as well as out.


Mark P - October 17, 2011

I’m not sure that anyone does think of this as an anarchist v. Trotskyist thing, D_D. There is nothing particularly anarchist about the Occupy Dame Street phenomenon. Consensus decision making is a Quaker thing, not an anarchist thing.


59. cynic - October 17, 2011

The ULA is a shambles. They need to get their act together, otherwise it’ll be the Shinners and Fianna Fáil who make hay out of this crisis of capitalism while the ULA/SP/SWP will go back to giving public meetings on ‘building a real alternative’ to crowds numbered in the low teens.


LeftAtTheCross - October 17, 2011

It’s trolling to suggest that the ULA is a “shambles”. The have 5 TDs and can expect a decent vote in the upcoming Dublin West by-election. The question isn’t what they are at present, but how they will develop from here. If they don’t demonstrate credible organisational and programmatic progress during the lifetime of the current Dáil they will be hard-pressed to grow their support, other than relying on traditional agitative channels at local level. Which is fine as far as it goes, and that’s their call. But the electorate at large may not be as enthusiastic in 5 years time once the sheen has rubbed off their ULA brand.


WorldbyStorm - October 17, 2011

I’d agree broadly LATC. The ULA is far from a shambles. And there is an argument that given the lack of cohesiveness between the parties previously that a bedding in time is appropriate. I’m a bit dubious cynic that FF are in any position to make hay. Perhaps SF but really everyone is fishing in different ponds so far at least. Which is important because as you also point out LATC, five years from now the situation will be more pressing and then they’ll have to show some consolidation. But realistically does anyone genuinely think that in 2016 the ULA will do more than at most double their representation? [and not to be overly gloomy, but I can’t see them holding DL not through any fault of RBB but due to it being hyper competitive due to the Ceann Comhairle being returned automatically there]. 10 ULA TDs would be a real achievement, but it isn’t going to happen overnight without some serious thinking and effort between now and then.


60. D_D - October 17, 2011

Before the June Forum some non-party ULA members produced the following thoughts on developing the ULA:


The Socialist Party has recently put forward a paper to the ULA steering committee about the same thing. If that is public maybe someone could put it up here?

A more specific and prescriptive (and hopefully postive!) discussion is needed at this point in the thread, I think, of how the ULA “need to get their act together”.


61. Jim Monaghan - October 17, 2011

“A more specific and prescriptive (and hopefully postive!) discussion is needed at this point in the thread, I think, of how the ULA “need to get their act togetHER””
I agree. In part because of this default SF are more and more being seen as the only effective opposition, and this in spite of their Labour Party type stance in the North.I am at a stage where I wonder if it is worth the effort. I am more of a pessimist that you


62. D_D - October 18, 2011

Any ponderings on this.

The ODS/Democracy Now march on Saturday appears to have attracted about 600, a bit ahead of the approx 400 said (‘Irish Times’) to be on the ‘Enough!’ march.

Now let us put aside for a moment the matter of whether people were put off this or that protest by who organised them, and think of them, for the sake of argument, as opportunities for anyone angry enough to come out and demonstrate. In the case of the ‘Enough!’ march it’s existence was publicised for weeks by thousands of well designed leaflets and hundreds of posters.

On Sunday last 3,000 to 5,000 (varying estimates) of the Clontarf bourgeoisie turned out to protest against the height of the new barriers on the sea front. A worthy cause for protest in itself.

Now the question is this. Why was a great proportion of middle class Clontarf inspired to come out and protest about an issue not vital to their material well being, while only an infinitesimal proportion of those affected by cuts to their already modest and sometimes vital services and incomes came on the two (one well flagged) general anti-austerity marches?

Discuss please.


LeftAtTheCross - October 18, 2011

Another example. An anti-water tax protest outside the Green Party conference in Waterford attracted maybe 50 people from WP, SP, SWP and local community groups, while 5,000 marched past from the RISE (Rural ireland Says Enough) campaign against Green plans to ban stag hunting and the like.

It’s not all doom and gloom. 10,000 people marched earlier this year in support of the campaign to save Navan hospital. And 100,000 on the ICTU Dublin march this time last year.

But part of the answer is I think a dismissive attitude towards the concept of political protest. My own mother has made comments like “wouldn’t you think he’d know better”, half in jest but at the same time it’s indicative of a cultural attitude. That conservatism carries through to younger generations, the attitude that protestors are a rent a mob, that protest is a lifestyle thing, black hoodies, living on the dole, get a job, long hair, short hair, blah blah. It’s a bundle of prejudice and very much alive in sections of society.

In the battle for hearts and minds, some of which will never be won over of course, my personal opinion is that the antics of the excitable ultra-Left do damage to the Left and protest in general. Also the constant rebranding of protest campaigns is a real turn off to many people, it gives a subjective validity to the prejudice of rent-a-mob.

What I do think will politicise the middle class, whether Leftwards or otherwise is debatable, is the biting reality that the life’s comforts and security they have known is unlikely to be available to their children. When comfortable people see the reality of emigration and JobBridge “internships” stretching out into the future for their kids, with expensive third-level education not providing any buffer between them and the great unwashed, that could lead to self-interested protest which might rival the obstruction of the view of the Pigeon House. And as with any sectional self-interest protest, it opens the possibility to broaden the discussion and agitate and educate.

And, on the back of George Lee’s shite programme the other night about “the pensions timebomb”, we can expect the greying vote to become louder about this issue as time progresses and as pensions evaporate within the deflating finance bubble.


make do and mend - October 18, 2011

LATC, +1

Until the people are hurt or see their closest hurt, they will not respond. And we are an adaptable species. They’ve been playing the austerity tune so long now that people treat it like background musak. We, the people, are powerless. Power operates on a global/super regional scale while most of us live on a local scale.

The popular call for an a-political response to political failures must gladden the hearts of every Austeritist from every Western political party, financial institution and tax-dodging corporation in existence. They know they’ve already won on this political sentiment alone – nothing will change, or only in their favour.

Resistence is futile. We either join the orthodoxy or are consumed.

[I don’t have Marvin’s IQ but I’m beginning to share his outlook.]


63. socialistfeminist - October 29, 2011

I would like to re-iterate that as a voter I have every right to demand that the ULA bother it’s arse to write a constitution. It genuinly shocks me that the irish swp does not have its own constitution especially as the British swp has recently decided to make itself more centralist. I find it extremely morally dubious for the ULA to put the term ‘grassroots democracy’ into the electioneering literature of every candidate for the general election and nowhere mention the real deal ‘democratic centralism’. Local people are not actually that stupid to not notice the total absence of this imaginary ‘grassroots democracy’ at thier local meeting. Pat how dare you tell me to ‘lighten up’ about money for all you know my children could be going without food. I find it insulting to give discounts to people for using a credit card as poor people and disabled don’t have credit cards so from the start the ULA has set itself up as an elitist organisation with contempt for the poor. Also Because their is zero accountability in the ULA nobody or mr.invisible is responsible for that gross insult to the poor.


Mark P - October 29, 2011

I’ll be sure to pass along your views, socialistfeminist. I like to send Joe Higgins a few hundred thousand words clipped from the rantings of internet concern trolls every once in a while.


64. Julian Assandwich - November 1, 2011

Has anyone seen this? Very interesting. http://www.independentsocialistnetwork.org/?p=327

“The first meeting of the ISN was on Saturday 29 October in London.
Posted on October 30, 2011 by Will| Leave a comment

The ISN aims to bring together all socialists and trade unionists, who are not members of existing socialist groups, who think we need a new working-class party committed to arguing the case for socialism.

The ISN works with members of the Socialist Party, the Socialist Workers Party to build TUSC as the best way of working towards that objective. The ISN aims to provide an arena for non-sectarian, comradely debate on the independent socialist left and to help organise the independents’ participation in the discussion and practical process involved in building a new party.

16 TUSC supporters attended the meeting and agreed to build TUSC and the ISN as a voice for independents who want to participate in TUSC. There was a vote to elect the ISN representative on the TUSC steering committee. Will McMahon received 8 votes, Pete McLaren received 6 votes, Steve Ballard received 1 vote, with one person not voting. Given the votes for Will and Pete it was agreed to ask the Steering Committee if both could attend meetings, otherwise they will alternate attendance. It was agreed to hold the next national ISN meeting on Saturday 14 January 2012 in London.

If you are not currently a member of a socialist group but want to work with other independent socialists and trade unionist in building TUSC and arguing for a new socialist party, contact indsocnet@yahoo.co.uk . A fuller report will be available in due course.”


D_D - November 8, 2011

Parallel universes. Funny that the TUSC ISN website page manages to combine, nominally, ther Irish entities ISN and People Before Profit :).

The ISN here is of course a small but well-estalished group.I have a lot of respect for them. They support the ULA but don’t seem to have formally affiliated.

A good idea to ‘just do it’ as regards organising the independents in TUSC, or the ULA. There’s a tentative site here for them in the ULA: http://weareragbags.wordpress.com/2011/10./31/indietusc/ Maybe our own independents are really too much of a rag bag to coalesce :)?

Incidentally, the ULA was by no means the Socialist Party’s idea exclusively. Actually independents were ploughing this furrow for a long time and could lay claim to the template if it wasn’t a schoolyard kind of thing to do.


Julian Assandwich - November 9, 2011

I understand the ISN’s affiliation to the ULA is a technical formality if not already complete – they canvassed for Coppinger. It would be great if there was some communication/medium to transmit these messages to members! Information vacuums lead to potentially harmful rounds of chinese whispers.

The TUSC ISN/PBP is like an alternate reality though!

Our ragbag group hasn’t attracted much attention from FGers if that’s what you fear..! I think it has been underestimated just how many independent socialists/marxists had been waiting for a new party to build.

It would be nice if one day CLR might give a blog post up to a discussion about what next for members who are not represented on the steering committee. A “just do it” approach doesn’t get off the ground without CLR blessing!


65. socialistfeminist - November 8, 2011

I’m aware that the ULA was the socialist party’s idea in the first place and they set up the website, I just don’t see how it can work if the swp persist with thier obnoxiuos proposal to share a platform with the Labour party, it’s insulting to voters, insulting to the socialist party, insulting to victims of the cuts, it insults everyone really except the Labour Party.


cynic - December 26, 2011

If that’s the case the SP should have done with it and just call time on it. The ULA has failed, it’s turned out to be nothing more than an electoral front for the SP and PBP. The SP want to concentrate on water charges while the country is being asset-stripped by the IMF and the other captains of industry, PBP are more concerned with setting up other front groups like ‘Enough’ or making a nuisance of themselves at the Occupy camp. The Left in Ireland doesn’t inspire confidence in anyone, and it’s SF who will be the main political beneficiaries of this crisis- you’ll get great odds on them being in government with FF in 4 years time if you go down to Paddy Power now.


ejh - December 26, 2011

you’ll get great odds on them being in government with FF in 4 years time if you go down to Paddy Power now.

What does this mean?

a. For the record, what odds would you actually get?

b. What do you mean by “great odds”? I’d take the phrase to mean longer odds than one might expect, i.e. an occurrence is thought by the market to be less likely than it really is. If your meaning is that it’s actually quite likely that SF will be in government with FF, what you mean is “short odds”. Not “great odds”.


Mark P - December 26, 2011

It is of course obviously unreasonable for anyone to seek to oppose the “asset stripping of the country” by mobilising large numbers of people to take action against one important aspect of that asset stripping. Right “cynic”?

By the way, is there any chance you’d settle on a single name rather than spewing your bile here under a seemingly endless succession of them?


66. igorokfree - December 26, 2011

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67. Marxist Mid-Ulster - December 26, 2011

One year on since the formation of the ULA and Brendan Young’s article seems all the more prescient:

“A brief account of the difficulties in building PBP will illustrate what I think are problems with the ‘alliance of groups’ approach. I raise these not to denigrate PBP or the people working and campaigning with PBP, but to address issues which I think have undermined its potential to grow, and which would likewise undermine the potential development of the ULA. After an auspicious launch, people were urged to ‘join’ PBP. Local groups formed, but it is mainly those which existed before the launch that have developed in any real way. One objective reason for this is the lack of an upsurge in the general level of struggle – so there was no new wave of people who might have been interested in PBP.”



Jim Monaghan - December 26, 2011

There is supposed to be a January conference.Though I think the house tax campaign seems like gathering momentum.When are the local elections?


CMK - December 26, 2011

Local elections 2014 – still a decent amount of time for the ULA to make an impact then.


Marxist Mid-Ulster - December 28, 2011

The Nothern Locals should have taken place in 2009 and were held back to coincide with the Assemby elections of this year. That means they have been now been delayed past 2013 which will be the Euro-Parl elections and could through up some interesting results depending on how the ‘Economic Union’ fares. The Northern Assembly is also reducing represenation and lengthening terms which would see off another election until after 2015 so that leaves the next UK election (whenever that is) with revised boundaries favouring PSF-DUP hegemony much like the merged Councils. That means the time for any meaningful electoralist intervention has passed. Trying to ‘patiently build’ an electoral profile while remaining reactive or inactive to the ongoing austerity programme is a betrayal of the class.


68. Julian Assandwich - December 26, 2011

In a few places its been confirmed that there will be a conference in late January/early Feb. Apparently the Cork branch has been told February 4th is the date pencilled in.

(Also, I have put up some clips from the December rally on my blog if anyone is interested.)

If anyone would like a platform to discuss a motion/proposal they have, I would be most obliged to post it on my blog for them to use to circulate their ideas. You can email me at weareragbags@gmail.com and the blog is


Also here is a good place for more informal discussion and C.Flower has kindly offered her website for people to form more discrete social groups to talk through proposals in more detail


Maybe Cedarlounge could do a post to inform people that the conference is imminent as there hasn’t been much publicizing of the event and people will need time to get their proposals done and “peer-reviewed” by a national discussion.


revolutionaryprogramme - January 18, 2012
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70. D_D - August 23, 2012

Hey, I’ve heard speeches like this at union and political conference. None at ULA ones though. Maybe one or two short one. 🙂

It’s still August.


eamonncork - August 23, 2012

I think it should be bumped to ‘What I’ve Been Listening To.’ Those are clearly the sleeve notes to an early Sonic Youth album.


RosencrantzisDead - August 23, 2012

I think it is an extract from a latter-day Finnegan’s Wake.


71. Some Political Musings | An Sionnach Fionn - November 16, 2012

[…] Kate Hoey when I see the opinions of some SP types (and she’s still at it!). There were indications of change but they have yet to appear […]


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