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Where to now for the ULA? February 3, 2012

Posted by guestposter in Irish Politics, The Left.
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Eddie Conlon, Brendan Young.

We offer the following as a contribution to the developing debate about the future of the ULA. As a conferences has now been called for April 21 we would hope that a wide ranging debate would take place about the future of the ULA. Members and branches should also submit ideas to the sub-committee that has been established to look at the ULA’s structures.

The establishment of the ULA was a big step forward for the left particularly for those of us who have promoted the idea of left unity as the basis for the establishment of a new mass workers party. The ULA must be nurtured and developed and allowed to grow at a pace that maintains the unity that has been established while at the same time creating a forward momentum based on united work, real and respectful internal debate and discussion and an acknowledgement that it will take time for the ULA to move beyond being an alliance to some kind of unitary formation that will from the nucleus of a new party.

There is much frustration at the slow pace of development. It is the case that it could be a little easier but there are reasons why it’s not: the ULA is an alliance (maybe even a federation) of founding groups with members who are not members of these groups; levels of struggles have not been as high as we would like them to be and the presence in the Dáil has created a set of problems that we have not had to face before. As a result, as an experienced activist said to one of us in the supermarket recently, the ULA lacks bite.

The tasks facing the ULA are to build a national profile whereby the public see us as the real opposition with a real political alternative and the best organisers; build an active branch structure in all areas where the constituent groups have a presence and beyond ; improve communications and internal debate (internal bulletin, better website and newsletter) creating a real internal life for the ULA. But the real challenge, in our opinion, is the degree of commitment to politically prioritising the ULA; little real joint work; and the existence of a number of campaigns (such as Enough) that are doing what should be done through the ULA.

Until the ULA becomes the main priority for all constituents it will not be built in a serious way. A stark opposition has emerged between the Socialist Party’s cautious approach based on an assessment that objective conditions are not conducive to significant growth of the ULA and the SWP’s voluntarism which suggest that anything is possible if we just work harder. The latter leads to a constant demand for mobilisation leading to poorly prepared and poorly attended protests. The former is in danger of demoralising people by suggesting that there’s not much that can be done.

As a bottom line the emphasis should shift from constituents running their own campaigns when they cannot get agreement in the ULA to agreeing to focus on campaigns where everyone is in agreement. There is evidence that a common approach to the HH Tax campaign may be emerging and also that it is seen by some, particularly the SP, as a potential turning point in building resistance to austerity. It should not be assumed that the HH Tax campaign will automatically lead to the growth of the ULA unless it contributes to the campaign in a cohesive fashion and seeks to draw the best activists to the ULA rather than to the constituent groups.

The ULA was established on the basis that there was much on which we agree but some issues which divide us. The focus must remain on areas of agreement and developing the programme so that it is more relevant to the crises around us and incorporates more areas where there is agreement. Where we disagree there should be ongoing and open debate. The ULA needs to facilitate more debate and clarification. It might be the case that what there might be even more we agree on than we thought! Differences can only be overcome through debate and discussion. Given the operation of consensus decision making there should be real efforts to reach consensus. Vetos should only be used after a period of discussion. And the content of these discussions should be made open to members so that they are aware of debates taking place in the ULA and are politically educated by the process of debate.

There is now an attempt to resolve differences by those, particularly the SWP, arguing that we need a delegate conference with full decision making powers. This is a mechanism to get around the fact that there is not agreement on perspectives. Because agreement cannot be found through discussion, it is to be imposed via majority vote. It is an organisational solution to a political problem. The ULA is not ready for such a development:

The election of voting branch delegates could lead to a race to have the most delegates; and the dynamic would be to create a leadership structure based upon proportionality of representation / delegates at the conference.

A voting conference, at this stage – where there is no agreement on political perspectives – will lead to polarisation and either paralysis or passive split. The majority will have its positions adopted, so what will the minority do?

On account of being organised, the SP and SWP will have an organised intervention into the conference – rendering the presentation of the views of independents less likely.

Finally the degree of internal communication is such that there would not be adequate internal debate prior to such a conference.

There is no agreement (the SP and Tipperary WUAG are opposed) on moving to this kind of decision making; and the for the reasons set out above, we agree. We need to work with what we have while building in structures that allow for non-aligned people to organise and have representation within the ULA. From the start we have supported the idea that the non-aligned members should have representation on the Steering Committee, elected only by these members themselves with the same rights to veto as the constituent organisations. It is unfortunate that in recent weeks PBP took a position against this. Arguing that all members should elect the non-aligned reps to the SC is to argue that they should have less rights and autonomy than the constituent groups. Further it sends the wrong message to prospective members and would reinforce the view that the ULA is a tool of the founding organisations. All members attending the conference should however vote to ratify the delegates to the SC – including those delegates independently selected by a meeting of the non-aligned members.

How non-aligned representation is organised and how political differences are managed is a matter for the non-aligned. There is a value in having people in the leadership feeding in the views of the non-aligned even if they are diverse. We should value political pluralism both within the ULA and its constituents. The imposition of lines through democratic centralist methods is not conducive to the kind of debate we need.

The expansion of the SC could be complemented by regular gatherings of branch activists to discuss ongoing work and have political discussions. There are some good ideas here, for example the formation of a ULA Council, which should be explored.

In recent days we have seen significant decisions made by the Steering Committee that hopefully will facilitate the ULA in moving forward:

1. A conference of the ULA is to be held on the 21st of April.

2. The Steering Committee also agreed that individual members of the ULA, comrades who are not members of the founding organisations, should meet separately during the Conference and elect members to represent them on the Steering Committee.

3. The Steering Committee has also agreed to set up a sub-committee – which should also include some individual, as well as members from the constituent groups – with the following terms of reference:
A) Recommend interim arrangements for representation of unaligned members on Steering Committee
B) Discuss future development of ULA including the development of participative structures
C) To consult all members on the above issues
D) Report to Steering Committee who will report to conference. The report of the Steering Committee to Conference will include the recommendations of the sub-committee

4. These were the main decisions of the Steering Committee held on Tuesday the 31 of January and clearly will need to be supplemented at the next meetings.

While these decisions do not resolve all issues hopefully they will provided the basis for a more structured debate on where the ULA is going. Hopefully it will encourage more people to join by sending out a message that there is a space in the ULA for those not aligned to the constituent groups. After all the very rationale for the ULA was to provide a mechanism for reaching out beyond the current membership and supporters of the constituents to a new layer of people who want to engage with radical and socialist politics.

Eddie Conlon. ULA/PBP Steering Committees
Brendan Young. Independent ULA/PBPA

Comments»

1. catcus - February 3, 2012

par for the course then. Same old same old was to be expected and was duly delivered.

Who loses. Irish workers but damnit there is a theoretical argument to be won.

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2. WorldbyStorm - February 4, 2012

I thincontributions open and honest contribution to the debate around the ULA. I wouldn’t be as pessimistic as you catcus, a bit of self reflection by elements in/of the ULA is a good thing in my book and there’s one basic truth, currently the further left is coalescing around the household tax campaign. All its energies are pouring nto that so realistically organisational peogress is on hold til mid year. So It’s precisely now that it is important to step back aways and take stock as Eddie and Brendan have.

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3. NC - February 4, 2012

It is amazing how well capital can organise itself into various formats to protect its interests yet those who are about advancing the interests of labour cannot. Same old predictable nonsense from doctrinaire fundamentalists.

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4. Blather - February 4, 2012

People’s Front of Judea…Judean People’s Front!

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Blather - February 4, 2012

Not to mention the United Alliance of Judean People’s Fronts!

Incidentally, it’s struck me how unintentionally funny it is to have called themselves a “United Alliance”. I mean, it’s up there with “safe havens” and “tuna fish, isn’t it? Methinks they do protest too much!

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5. WorldbyStorm - February 4, 2012

Well, those aren’t really appropriate comparisons to the situation of the ULA. It’s one thing to complain of multiple competing formations on the left who have nothing to do with each other – most of us have probably had that thought at one time or another.

It’s different again to complain when those formations are attempting to work together. The ULA has been extant for a little over a year. Whether you love it or loathe it it is an attempt to do something different on the further left. So all the stuff about Judean People’s Fronts is both inaccurate and a bit pointless.

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6. EamonnDublin - February 4, 2012

The madness of the SWM will ensure that the ULA fails. Its only a matter of time. Lifestyle lefties cannot abide the reality of long term campaigns and as such, will endeavour to continually push the ‘to the barricades comrades’ line which has no resonance within the real world of Irish workers. Nice try by genuine people to create a left bloc but as long as the student recruitment party remains, its doomed to stagnate.
Already signs that the HH tax campaign is suffering because of their negative ( almost predictable and possibly intentional ) activities.

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WorldbyStorm - February 4, 2012

Dublin Dilettente wrote once a while back about the reverence of some for the general strike ina Debordian way, but there are others who do the same for the concept of the ‘protest’. And it’s no more helpful. Perhaps less so.

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7. Feadog - February 4, 2012

ULA conferences on setting up a political party are becoming as frequent as ends of the world.

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Mark P - February 4, 2012

It’s not a conference on setting up a political party.

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WorldbyStorm - February 4, 2012

I think that’s a central point, it would have party like attributes particularly for elections but would remain an alliance of groups with as yet undetermined individual autonomy, no? Eddie and Brendan are careful to make that distinction. In any case it makes tactical and strategic sense given the varying strength of individual groups within it.

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8. Feadog - February 4, 2012

Sorry, I should have said setting up a thing with party-like attributes.

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WorldbyStorm - February 4, 2012

🙂

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9. CMK - February 4, 2012

It might be just me but I’ve been following the various ULA related threads on some sites and here and it seems clear to me that there is a massive hunger among many self declared ‘Left’ wingers for the ULA to fail and fail sooner rather than later. Several contributions to this thread are clearly of that school of thought. Whether it’s micro sects demanding that it turn into a fully fledged party ‘now!!’ or other lefties with an axe to grind against either the SP or the SWP there is, as I say, a palpable desire for the ULA project to run aground.

Newsflash: if the ULA fails that’s it for the socialist Left folks for a generation. It’s the only show in town left of Sinn Fein and those willing it to implode should bear that in mind. There isn’t another ideal left wing organisation out there that’s an alternative to the ULA; the ULA is IT. It has hugely problematic features but there does seem to be some effort to narrow the gaps between the constituent elements and the non-aligned. That it’s survived this far is itself a success story, it will develop incrementally and each small consolidation will make it more difficult to walk away from.

The Monty Python jokes are wearing well thin, but I suppose if you’re a hurler on the ditch getting ready to sit out the coming battles they provide some comfort and amusement. I think they’re of a part with a substantial section of the soft Left here who are, with each month, having to choose between accepting austerity, by default through an unwillingness to work with those further left, or staying neutral and silent, but want to get their digs in at the ULA, while the Right achieves unprecedented hegemony.

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Garibaldy - February 4, 2012

I think the ULA is here to stay in some form, although whether it makes it as far as a party in say the next 2 years is more open to question. Even in the unlikely event it does implode, the seats will still be there, so I’m not sure it’s right to say that even electorally it’s the ULA or nothing. I find it hard to think that even if it collapses there still wouldn’t be a significant amount of cooperation within and without the Dáil. Where I do think the ULA is going to find it difficult is to find a substantially greater foothold in the unions, which would be important to help it develop.

As for the unprecedented hegemony of the right. Isn’t it under more challenge now than say ten years ago, even if the damage it is doing is worse?

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Michael Carley - February 4, 2012

In the past, the left has made the mistake of thinking that a collapse of one right-wing hegemony will lead to a left-wing hegemony.

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CMK - February 4, 2012

I agree that there will be a ULA in some shape or form into the foreseeable future, but I think it’s in as much danger from those who are expecting miracles from it, as it is from those who are actively hostile to the whole project. Co-operation will probably continue, yes, and the constituent parties could well continue to grow (in fact they’re probably certain to grow). But I wouldn’t be too certain that absent the ULA left-wing seats will still be there. Chairman Ganley allied to Shane Ross, Cat Pox and Michael McDowell could craft a potent message that could squeeze out the ULA in terms of the latter’s ability to gain seats. Libertas Nua candidates securing a hundred extra votes over the ULA candidate for the last seat is one possible outcome. Certainly, it’s depressing to talk to people who, for instance, are totally against the Household Tax but who, also, fell hook, line and sinker for the Indo’s disgusting story this week about the Polish woman on social welfare in Donegal. A lot of people are confused and facing several different directions at once, politically; they might go left on X issue, right on Y issue and far right on Z. Ganley and his merry gang would be pushing at a open door in terms of favourable media coverage if they decided to go for it as an organised rabid right party.

As far as right-wing hegemony goes: well, the proposed fiscal pact is going to effectively outlaw Keynesianism, social democracy, not to mention socialism. If this pact is incorporated into the constitutions of EU member states that’s an unprecedented gain for the Right that will take decades to reverse constitutionally – it might only be overthrown by revolution or similar mass upheaval. The intellectual and philosophical weakness and incoherence of the ideas informing the Right in Europe and the US bears no relation to its ongoing and unstoppable consolidation of economic and political power. Aided, in no small part, by the parties of the Second International who are digging their own graves with smiles on their faces.

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Garibaldy - February 4, 2012

CMK,

I agree it’s hard to predict what happens with the ULA seats and ones where they might come close next time, but I meant before the next election the seats will still be there. I suspect much of it depends on the fate of FF as opposed to some new Ganley outfit. Agree too on the possibility of people going left and right at the same time, and that those people will be up for grabs. More likely to go with a populist part of the FF/PSF variety I’d have thought. Agree internationally the right is getting stronger as well, though as I said earlier, internally the question is a bit different (apart from the north, where the right is completely ascendant).

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10. Gearóid - February 4, 2012

Entertaining article about the ULA in the Galway Advertiser: http://www.advertiser.ie/galway/article/49086/are-ula-the-real-left

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Julian Assandwich - February 6, 2012

They’re trailblazers over in Galway: healthy branch balance, a college society, facebook, twitter, blog, joint activity, several successful high profile protests, the first ULA branch AGM, motions voted upon and passed up to steering committee for dissemination to other branches.treasurer/fundraising activity/ a dedicated branch bank account, Great to see.

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D_D - February 6, 2012

OK. Cheesy, but I can’t resist: ‘The West’s Awake!’

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11. cuskellk - February 4, 2012

Good article, thank you. I attended the national forum of the ULA last year as I was excited at the prospect of a “broader” left alternative. As an unaligned member I had hoped very much that the ULA could provide me with a way in which to actively engage with the issues facing the Irish people and indeed the global crisis. After the forum I officially joined the ULA through the website. I was told I was the first unaligned member to join this way. I went to a couple of meetings in my area. I really tried to engage in the debate and feel as if the unaligned “vision” was being acknowledged or included. Instead I unfortunately felt like “the new kid” in a group that already had its set norms, cliques and rituals. There was a constant underlying current and tension between the SP and SWP members which manifested itself in discussions that I felt completely alienated from as I hadn’t “been around for the past million years” and didn’t know what the hell had been happening between the two dominant ULA parties (although I must say the SWP and SP members really tried to NOT do this-I think it was more of an unconscious action than conscious).
Ultimately I felt disallusioned with the ULA as, although the aim of it is to encompass a broader left campaign it is failing miserably. I woudl really have loved to become ative within the ULA and may even attend the forum in April but I feel at the minute campaigns such as Unlock Nama, Occupy University and The Spectacle of Defiance and Hope offer people like me a better way in which to engage in political action without the historical “shit” (for want of a better word) that is preventing the ULA from being the inclusive and broad group it was meant to be. Until the SP and SWP are “consultative” members as opposed to the “dominant” members then the ULA is going nowhere fast.

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EamonnDublin - February 5, 2012

cuskellk, What better options do your selected campaigns offer? short term protests which will become part of political history very rapidly. We could all list hundreds of similar events over the years but the reality is that unless you are willing to engage with the working class or the ‘stressed middle class’ you are doomed
to short term sloganism. The SP have learned this lesson, the WP are the guide for ensuing that this path is not lost and the SWM will never understand this.
As for independent members of ULA, they are only considered numbers yet to be convinced of either option or just lefties needing the comfort of the group mentality.

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12. Jim Monaghan - February 5, 2012

The critics of ULA should ask the question. Would things be better for the resistance without ULA.I don’t think other non party thinmgs like “Occupy” ( I think of the Dublin one) are an alternative.
So warts and all, we have to try and build and improve ULA. The other alternative is the wasteland of cynicism of which we seem to have had many contributions.Please give alternatives not cynicism

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Feadog - February 5, 2012

If you’re going to start a party, then start a party and stop effin’ around.

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que - February 9, 2012

Or are they taking alot of useful energy and dissipating it on the other hand Jim?

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Mark P - February 9, 2012

What energy are they dissipating precisely? It is, after all, he ULA which has been the driving force behind the main useful national campaign going on at the moment.

While Sinn Fein, for instance, are busy going around the place doing their best to undermine people’s confidence to fight the household tax / water tax / septic tax.

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que - February 9, 2012

I was just pointing out that there was a different way of viewing the slow pace of growth.

Instead of seeing it as a better than nothing formation it could also be seen as weakening the growth of the left not because of a lack of a committment or talent but because it as an organisation doesnt seem to be developing. Energy dissipated via friction, structural weakness etc.

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13. Jim Monaghan - February 5, 2012

On Garibaldi remarks on getting a trade union base. Now more than ever this has to be in opposition to the union leadership especially the civil service of the unions who think they own the unions and that the membership are just subscribers. Until retirement I was in SIPTU. It’s leadership could give lessons in manipulation. The unions like the Labour Party are littered with ex-leftists whose cynicism and nastiness is at a very high level.
Oh, I joined through the website, quite early on and I am unaffiliated.
What can the independents do?
Encourage more ULA and less SWP, SP etc
Help create an athmosphere of non sectarianism. Know that the history of division and other such nonsense will not disappear overnight. In addition work to remove the messiah complex of groups and leaders. (true successors of Lenin etc.)
Help to get debates on issues which lead to synthesis and not premature lines of division.
My dream would be an ULA where new members and activists swamp the original charter members who would have to be really stupid to walk away. In saying this I recognise and give credit to the founders. Let us be clear without the SP, SWP/PbP, South Tiipp there would be nothing to argue about. Bravo to their achievements before and after the formation of ULA

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14. D_D - February 5, 2012

The local meetings cuskellk attended were those of my own ULA Branch. I think her comment here should be noted as a classic case of the loss of a nonaligned member – indeed the first nonaligned member to join through the ULA website it seems – due to the situation described in Eddie Conlon’s and Brendan Young’s article. She might have given it a longer go than one or two meetings but she cannot be faulted for her perceptions and alienation. Actually Dublin Central has recently lost another independent woman member with a long and active role in the ULA and the PBPA before that, and a role not just at Dublin Central level, for very similar reasons of perceived insignificance and dismissal.

Nevertheless while cuskellk rightly echoes the article above (‘Where to now for the ULA?’) and places the responsibility where it should be placed, with the complete dominance of, yet de-prioritisation of, the ULA by the founding constituents, there are other actors on the Dublin Central stage. As a non-party member of DC ULA, who is hardly a “new kid” anywhere, I feel a pang of guilt and failure from her post, I must say. For the DC Branch is one of the few areas where there is a quantity of experienced non-party people who have, moreover, had a degree of organisation around precisely the pluralist and unitary concerns contained in cuskellk’s post. Whether the fault is subjective (neglect, ineptitude or political weakness) or objective (actual powerlessness against the big battalions) will no doubt be clearer as times passes. But I cannot help wondering why or how, in a Branch with a circle of non-party people who are neither novices nor weightless, there could not have been, for the eyes of a new nonaligned recruit, at least a minority focus, a visible and coherent alternative, of nonaligned views and examples. A presence at least sufficient to demonstrate that cuskellk was not as lost and isolated as she felt.

Of course the malaise might not be treatable at all at local level and, as I’ve mentioned, a non-party member in the same area, but with considerable involvement wider than Branch level, has taken a step back similar to cuskellk’s. The article by Eddie and Brendan addresses national concerns, which of course get reflected in the Branches – where there are Branches! But it also implies an attempt by at least some of the non-party activists to push for real changes in the situation.

Pushing for change might also entail, as well as the identification and critique of the perspectives and practices of the founding constituents, a self reflection by non-party activists, especially those (like myself) reasonably well placed and with a history of organising around the need for a new unitary, open left. An inquiry as to why they have not supplied some kind of visible presence, a voice if not a vehicle, a lighthouse if not a vessel, for new nonaligned people attracted (initially) into the ULA.

Another signal of the non aligned getting a grip on themselves is the series of nonaligned meetings (with the latest small one in Dublin this weekend) with the aim of nonaligned organisation and representation in the ULA. The nonaligned, committed to the ULA itself and only, adhering to the ULA as it is, are potentially the strongest element in the future building of the ULA. Apparently the nonaligned, or non-party, (non- SWP, SP or STWUAG) members could be– in admittedly less than solid membership figures – a guesstimated third or more of the ULA membership.

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Julian Assandwich - February 6, 2012

“The nonaligned, committed to the ULA itself and only, adhering to the ULA as it is, are potentially the strongest element in the future building of the ULA”

Forza ULA!

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15. D_D - February 6, 2012

A small meeting for nonaligned ULA members was held in Dublin on Saturday. The short notice and confined notification obviously affected the attendance.

This turned out to be the Dublin leg of a series of meetings, others being in Cork and Galway.

A fair and friendly discussion took place.

It was agreed to pencil in 18th February for a national nonaligned meeting. An email will go out to nonaligned members through the ULA mailing list (hopefully).

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16. Glen Clifford - February 9, 2012

Saw this on Tomas O Flatharta’s blog. The real views of the SWP in relation to the Household Tax campaign and the ULA, as outlined in an internal members bulletin.

*SWP Bulletin 06.02.12*

*Household tax*

It’s only a matter of time now before the State pulls out the heavy guns and starts to pile the pressure on people through the media and through threats as we approach March. It’s vital that we win local groups to the demand for protests- not only in words but in action in order to resist this pressure. Alan Shatter has already been in the Sunday Papers threatening legislation to take the fines directly from wages.

Overall the level of payment is still only 5% which means a huge 95% of people are still holding out. But the substitutionism of some on the left is appalling and will suffocate the ability of the campaign to effectively
resist.

Everywhere we have put down motions for protests to back up non payment the response from the floor has been overwhelming.

This description of a Wexford meeting captures the mood: Wednesday night, Ballynabola. On a freezing night over 100 people packed into the local pub to organise against the household charges. Ballynabola is a small village on the Wexford to New Ross road that you might miss if you were not paying attention. The turnout and the mood of those present indicated that something deep is stirring in Ireland. People are taking the first tentative steps to say: We have had enough.

The Ballynabola meeting kicked off with a speech from the local campaign co-ordinator, Seamus O Brien who outlined the details of what the household charge involved and allayed fears about fines. When the meeting was opened to the floor, the sheer rage that is stalking the country could be heard. Many of those present rely on sceptic tanks and
were facing the double whammy of household charges and remediation work of up to €15,000.

‘Have the government no responsibility in this? We paid planning fees – we followed the regulations – so why are they just blaming individuals.’ is how one man put it. The reply from the platform was that urban and rural Ireland had to stick together. Instead of bailing out bankers, there should be a public works programme to help carry out remediation work. There are plenty of unemployed building workers on the dole and there is much useful work to be done.

The overwhelming cry from the meeting was a call to protest – to get out on the streets and make our voices heard. The first suggestion was for a protest at the next local council meeting. Another was to block the main bridge at New Ross and hold up traffic. When it was put to a vote, every hand in the room shot up to back a protest at the local council next week.

Sometimes left wing activists who have struggled long and hard in isolation underestimate the capacity of people. They suggest a campaign *purely* of non-payment and believe that slow, methodical canvassing of areas will be enough in itself to defeat the government. This electoralist perspective which leaves the mass of people as passive and the activists substituting will not find itself capable of resisting the onslaught of the State.

Where we have an influence in a campaign we should be calling protests. It’s time to show in practice that it works. We should also get into the routine of having one good nights canvassing with as many locals as possible before our branch meetings.

The response from our SWP leaflet has been great with 7 text joiners last Friday and another group of texts following the weekend’s stalls. We have to keep getting those leaflets around as much as possible at household activities. Remember: campaigns don’t last forever and there is a limited window of opportunity to start the process of targeting key individuals who want to take the fight further for recruitment to the SWP. The stronger the SWP the stronger the voice for a bottom up dynamic and radical campaign will be andthe more will remain when the campaign comes to a lull.

*Right To Work Protest Labour’s Conference*

We discussed at the last SWP National Committee that battles over jobs and redundancy payments would be key in the coming months. We therefore called a protest to take place on April 14th at Labour’s Conference in Galway. The demand for the ‘Right To Work’ is central to how we relate to occupations. We want the fight to get the best payments the workers can get but as revolutionaries we want to go much further: the whole process of worker’s occupation raise the question- who owns the workplaces- the capitalists or the workers?

We want to start raising demands that relate to these workers struggles but draw out the implications of every sit in. We want a serious jobs programme across the country so that workers like the La Senza workers can be re appointed. We want companies nationalised to save jobs. Bosses who run down assets to rip off redundancies should face jail for reckless trading etc.

We also want to relate these demands to the wider issue of lack of opportunity for the unemployed. There are 26 workers for every 1 job. The governments threats of an ‘end date’ or ‘exit’ from your payment are just means by which to penalise the poor when the lack of investment by the rich is the true source of unemployment.

Leaflets for the Right To Work march will be ready for this weekend. Until then we need branches to start thinking of organising to get to Galway with wider layers of people for April 14th. In Cork and Galway we need to get together a group of activists to plan a Right To Work meeting at which we will have a Vita Cortex, La Senza worker speaking alongside James O’Toole (who will push the demo).

We need all members who are in a wider campaign or union or union branch to email: [deleted] the name of your group and their ‘sponsorship’ of the Right To Work protest. Please share the event on your facebook. We need to start using social media to the party’s advantage when we can: https://www.facebook.com/events/138955179555519/

*Revolution 2012 Belfast*

On Friday the 9th of March the Belfast SWP’s conference ‘Revolution 2012’ begins. The Belfast branch have pulled together an amazing line up of international and local speakers and a really interesting selection of
talks. We’re waiting for the delivery of material but branches should make sure to put that weekend in their diary.

*United Left Alliance*

The space that the ULA should occupy is now the realm of Sinn Fein spokespeople. The weakness of the ULA is a product of the sectarianism of the SP and the conservatism of Joan Collins and the Healy group. On a steering committee of 6 we have one representative and all proposals we put forward over the last year are vetoed. We suggested a common ULA strategy for the household campaign but this was shot down as the other components would rather not be tied to the SWP but would rather side with the anarchist/eirigi elements of the left who are more than happy to cooperate when it comes to marginalising the SWP. The SP’s formalism will be the subject of an article produced by the PC to explain their politics.

We are going into the open with our critique of the state of the ULA. This involved pointing out the others political positions. Putting down motions at ULA branches for action e.g. to support the Right To Work demo on April the 14th. By building an open and democratic ULA on the ground in key areas we can prove in practice the poverty of the SP’s political positions.

The steering committee want to suggest adding ‘independents’ to the committee but this is just a sop to democracy. Instead of one member one vote and a delegate based leadership structure we end up with the insane: the semi-anarchist ‘independent’ in the ULA and the reformist on the right of the ULA can represent one another? So heterogenous elements with no shared platform can be represented by one individual?

The long delayed conference will now take place on April 21st with a separate meeting for independents- we should demand that this separate meeting report back to the main conference and that there has to be a vote on any proposals that are put forward. The NPA in France has declined from 10,000 to 3,000 members because of the logjam at the top. Instead of open votes they have ‘platforms’ who each put forward a proposal and opposing proposals are amalgamated. So one faction says ‘we are for the veil ban’ the other says ‘we are against’ and you try to formulate a position that encompasses both!! This destroys the ability to take any action.

In summary: Kieran Allen’s document on the ULA will be published soon and we should already be open in our critique of the reasons for the collapse of the ULA. We should put down proposals for action in ULA branches- especially the protest at the Labour Conference.

*Educationals *

Course of ten free lectures starts this Saturday at 4pm at 5 henrietta st. All new members should be encouraged to attend!

*Internet protest*

350 teenagers marched through Dublin city centre last Saturday and more are due to march again next week on the issue of the ACTA bill (anti piracy). We should try to get any student members to the garden of remembrance Dublin at 1pm this Saturday.

*PLEASE SEND REPORTS FROM THE REST OF THE COUNTRY FOR THE BULLETIN TO [deleted] EVERY SUNDAY!!!! *
* *

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LeftAtTheCross - February 9, 2012

FFS. Take a deep breath. You couldn’t invent this stuff.

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Mark P - February 9, 2012

It’s a very unhelpful email, and is an attempt to whip their rank and file up by rather crudely misrepresenting their allies in the Household Tax Campaign and the ULA. I would not, however, take it too seriously.

The SWP are unused to long term collaborative work with others, and in particular are unused to the restraints this places on their ability to have a sudden brainstorm or use a front to present everybody else with a fait accompli. It’s not surprising that they find having to persuade others rather than attempting to bounce them into going along with the SWP’s latest idea somewhat frustrating. I suspect that they will calm down as they get used to it.

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WorldbyStorm - February 9, 2012

Depressing in the extreme is the concentration on ‘protest’. To what end? And with who? Where I live it’s a struggle to get people put the campaign posters in windows. THe idea that there will be ‘protests’ off the back of this is hard to swallow.

That said you’re probably right Mark. I would worry though that they feel comfortable putting out something like this.

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Mark P - February 9, 2012

There will be protests organised by the Household Tax Campaign, indeed there have already been some. Protests can play a useful role in bringing attention to the campaign in local areas.

Where the SWP are wrong is in elevating protests to a central tactic of the campaign on an equal footing with organised non-payment. And in denigrating the importance of organised non-payment by painting it as an atomised form of resistance. This misses the power of organised non-payment, as demonstrated in the both the poll tax campaign and the 1990s campaign against the water tax. It also misses the key point that non-payment is precisely what gives activists a tactical lever on this issue that we lack on any of the many other issues we can protest.

They rather leave the impression that they don’t like the sound of the patient unglamorous organising work necessary to win and would rather have more protests where they might more quickly find paper sales and recruits.

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Julian Assandwich - February 9, 2012

On the ragbags blog, we’re offering this James fellow a chance to try and make coherent that incoherent and contradictory mess of a bulletin before trying to analyze it or write a rebuttal.

There must be something that makes sense in it, maybe deeper layers that we just cannot see.

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neilcaff - February 9, 2012

For the record this is the actual position of the Socialist Party regarding protests and non-payment:

“The Campaign should tap into this mood and facilitate protest. This can feed into and boost the campaign for organised, mass non-payment. This has been shown in Cork where 250 supporters of the Campaign turned out on Feb 3 to picket Enda Kenny’s dinner at City Hall with the Chamber of Commerce.

“The Campaign’s National Steering Committee meets this weekend. The Socialist Party believes that the committee should name the date for a Day of Protest throughout the country, possibly (depending on the timescale of the Govternment leaflet drop) on Saturday Feb 25. This could take the form of mass binning of the Government literature and, in the cities and where big numbers assemble to do so, potentially the organising of protest marches. Given the fact that occupations and sit-ins have been put on the agenda by the global Occupy movement, the Vita Cortex workers and the La Senza workers, occupation of TDs’ clinics, council meetings etc should also be considered.

“Protest should never be used as a substitute for building mass non-payment but, handled correctly, mass non-payment and protest are complementary tactics and the Campaign should embrace both as the fight against the tax is stepped up in the weeks ahead.”

http://socialistparty.net/household-charge/877-household-tax-name-a-date-for-protests

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WorldbyStorm - February 9, 2012

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying never protest. The example you cite is a perfect case of where it makes sense to protest – if one can get bodies out and on the street. But I agree with Mark P that making it the alpha and omega of the campaign is not the way forward. I’ve already been at meetings where the idea of a national protest in Dublin is being pushed before there’s even an activist base beyond the parties to do the hard grind of leafleting, knocking on doors, etc, etc.

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Mark P - February 9, 2012

Exactly.

The issue in dispute isn’t whether or not there should be protests, but getting the foundations right.

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WorldbyStorm - February 9, 2012

It’s like the old antifa line, don’t go out unless there’s enough people to do what is necessary. That sounds defeatist, but is only defeatist if the willingness isn’t there to go out at all.

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17. Feadog - February 9, 2012

Why is it that stamp collectors, tiddly-wink players and hamster fanciers can form organisations, elect officers, keep minutes, collect fees, discuss and pass resolutions and the great minds of the ULA cannot?
The basic building blocks of democracy are not all that difficult. I suspect the reason is that the ULA is a gathering of left theologians who are more interested in their own weighty discourses than the vulgar business of political activism.

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Mark P - February 9, 2012

What utter nonsense. I have my disagreements with the SWP, for instance, but if anything their flaw lies in hyper-activism rather than a disdain for activism.

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Feadog - February 9, 2012

Utter nonsense or just nonsense? I’ll prepare a document and discuss it with my sub-committee for consideration at the next conference.

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Mark P - February 9, 2012

I think we can safely stick with utter nonsense rather than mere nonsense.

The idea that they have a disdain for activism is genuinely one of the silliest criticisms I’ve ever seen of the Irish socialist left.

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neilcaff - February 9, 2012

Feadog: “I’ll prepare a document and discuss it with my sub-committee for consideration at the next conference.”

You do just that buddy. Take as long as you like for consideration, say about 10 years, and then come back to us and let us know how you got on.

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Feadog - February 9, 2012

“You do just that buddy. Take as long as you like for consideration, say about 10 years, and then come back to us and let us know how you got on.”
Ten years should do it. Just in time for the formation of this new party.

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RosencrantzisDead - February 9, 2012

I’ll prepare a document and discuss it with my sub-committee for consideration at the next conference.

You do realise every political party operates like this? The only exception being the likes of the Christian Solidarity Party and the Christian Democrats, which consist of six people who all agree on whatever the Vatican comes out with.

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18. Dimplex - February 9, 2012

@ Mark P:

This isn’t an email, it’s an internal bulletin.

The statement that Kiernan Allen will be outlining in the weeks to come the reasons for the collapse of the ULA should be of interest, no?

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WorldbyStorm - February 9, 2012

Got to say that I agree with you there Dimplex. The reference to the collapse of the ULA is very troubling.

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Mark P - February 9, 2012

It is both an email and an internal bulletin, Dimplex!

And I wouldn’t read much into that unfortunate phrase. From context, they are clearly talking about what they see as the stagnation or retreat of the ULA and their intention to claim that this is due to everyone else not seeing the wisdom of their latest brainstorm. Or everyone else being insufficiently enthusiastic about the vast opportunities the SWP located deep in its imagination, or whatever. It’ll be nonsense, but it isn’t an announcement that they are leaving the ULA or anything like that.

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WorldbyStorm - February 9, 2012

Well the other point is why would they leave? For all the sturm und drang they clearly see it as a vehicle with some utility left. But that said they also clearly don’t see it as a vehicle as presently constructed with potential. I’m very dubious about their anti-platform rhetoric too.

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Ed - February 9, 2012

That’s how I’d read it too, the ‘collapse’ as something that’s already happened (not enough progress over the last 12 months etc) rather than what they expect to happen soon.

The main thing that struck me about the doc is that the author seems really, really angry at the idea that independent members of the ULA would like to have some kind of input into decision-making. A ‘sop to democracy’ indeed! Apparently they should all just shut up and recognise that the SWP is representing their ideas already.

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Mark P - February 9, 2012

“That’s how I’d read it too, the ‘collapse’ as something that’s already happened (not enough progress over the last 12 months etc) rather than what they expect to happen soon.”

Yes. In my view it’s a reflection of their rather overheated perspective that massive breakthroughs for the far left were on the cards over the last year (in fact, they’ve been claimin it for quite a few years). When that doesn’t materialise, it can’t be because they had unrealistic expectations, it has to be because someone else on the left has held everything back for nefarious reasons.

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Dimplex - February 9, 2012

for those not in one of the four main groupings of the ULA, though, it’s hardly reassuring.

I mean, if this is a case of ‘ah sure, that’s the SWP, what can you do?’ – which is what you seem to be making it out to be Mark P – well the question there is, why would anyone want to join an alliance/party for which the above is normal, shrug of the shoulder type behaviour?

do you not see how bizarre all of this is, both the above internal bulletin and your responses?

I can’t see independents staying past April, have to say. There are more pressing things which require our energy than watching the SWP throw up in public and the SP patting them on the back while saying ‘No seriously, he’ll be alright in a minute…’

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Mark P - February 9, 2012

I’m always entertained by the number of people who turn up on left wing websites to predict woe and misfortune for the ULA. It’s been that way from the moment the ULA first appeared, and indeed from the moment it was first discussed. It’s particularly odd how many of these people adopt one off pseudonyms just to do said woe-mongering.

I don’t think that the independent activists currently involved are going to go anywhere, and indeed as more people get active over issues like the Household Tax, I’m confident that more and more of the will see the need for a political organisation like the ULA.

I’ve already said that I think that this SWP email is unhelpful and explained that I think it’s chiefly fueled by their lack of experience of long term collaborative work with others, and their resentments of the constraints that imposes on their behaviour. I don’t think that this email is “ordinary behaviour” or anything like that, I think it’s childish quite frankly. But I also don’t think that it’s quite the massive deal that some people who turn up on left blogs just to do a bit of stirring seem to believe it is.

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19. Dimplex - February 9, 2012

“I’m always entertained by the number of people who turn up on left wing websites to predict woe and misfortune for the ULA”

what, like the SWP?

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Mark P - February 9, 2012

No, Dimplex, like you.

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20. Dimplex - February 9, 2012

do you not see that? It the SWP that is predicting woe and misfortune for the ULA.

It’s an internal bulletin, written by James O’toole, so we talking about someone who is fairly senior in the SWP organisation.

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Mark P - February 9, 2012

I understood your snipe, Dimplex. I’m just not very interested in it. I’m more interested in your persistence. Why exactly have you showed up here doing the whole “oh woe is us” false concern routine? How many other pseudonyms have you used here over the last year to do the same thing?

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21. Dimplex - February 9, 2012

It is a bit bizarre, no, to see my comments as predicting woe and misfortune for the ULA, while those of James O’Toole are waved away as unfortunate.

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Mark P - February 9, 2012

The distinction is as follows:

James is someone I have significant disagreements with, but who is also an ally in various campaigns and struggles. You are a drive by internet “concern troll”.

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Dimplex - February 9, 2012

what a pity, then, he doesn’t want you as a partner.

Well, not you exactly, just the sectarian, conservative, electorialist, Socialist Party.

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Dimplex - February 9, 2012

that IS what he called your party, no?

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Mark P - February 9, 2012

And now here you pretending to concern for the poor Socialist Party as well as the poor ULA independents, and you aren’t any more convincing in this pose.

I think you’ll find by the way that he referred to us as substitutionist and formalist as well, although from his usage I’m not entirely convinced that he knows what those words mean. But the Socialist Party really isn’t that concerned with whether James agrees with our political or tactical views. He hasn’t joined the Socialist Party after all, and he’s entirely entitled to have silly opinions.

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22. Dimplex - February 9, 2012

The above internal bulletin is important because, well, it confirms what a lot of the independent Left thought about the ULA – that it would find it extremely difficult for the SWP and SP to sacrifice a lot of their own identities in order to create a new one.

They just can’t do it, and the internal bulletin is saturated with the refusal to do so.

you may think, Mark P, that this is simply a case of the SWP’s growing pains – well God bless your innocence.

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Mark P - February 9, 2012

No innocence involved in my view at all. I’ve as much experience of the SWP being a pain in the balls to deal with as any dozen drive by internet concern trolls put together.

But because I’ve reasonably long and close experience of them, I’m aware that they have changed quite dramatically over the last few years, adopting both an orientation towards community activism and a degree of patience which would have been entirely unimaginable a decade ago. I never for a moment expected that it would be easy for them to learn to collaborate with others in a long term way, as it’s something that has been alien to their practice for decades. It’s hardly surprising that they resent the constraints that working with others on an equal basis imposes on their freedom of action, but they were always going to have to learn to put up with it.

As for “the independent left”, I think you’ll find that large numbers of the people who fit that criticism have joined the ULA and don’t share the convictions of certain anonymous internet concern trolls. Now really, how many different pseudonyms have you used to peddle the same stuff here over the last year? Give us a rough estimate. 5 different identities? 10?

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WorldbyStorm - February 9, 2012

Got to say Mark P that while your conciliatory tone as regards the memo/whatever is laudable, you seem to be taking perhaps too relaxed a view of it. Whatever about Dimplex’s persistence and personalisation of this onto you, in fairness, this isn’t just built up out of nothing. That memo appears to be a legit communication within a significant component of the ULA. It seems to confirm some of the more depressing stuff as regards the perception of the ULA and other elements within by others within it that has been circulating. For anyone sympathetic to the ULA like many of us on here, including myself, it’s not exactly heartening.

And worst of all just when there’s a serious campaign to be fought and perhaps won this breaks. Not good.

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Mark P - February 9, 2012

Oh it’s almost certainly legitimate, and I’m not all that relaxed about it. I’m sure that the SWP will have some significant explaining to do at ULA and Household Tax Campaign organising meetings.

But I’m also not shocked, surprised, or suddenly convinced that there are massive unexpected and unsurmountable difficulties in either the HTC or the ULA.

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Dimplex - February 9, 2012

That’s pretty much how it’s been seen.

This is a confirmation of fears held by people about the sustainability of the ULA, and for Mark P to pass off that confirmation as trolling, well, living in denial I would suggest.

Of course, Mark P is not being entirely honest here, as these concerns were held not only by the SP but by the non-SWP element of PbP – the attacks on Joan Collins above are particularly spiteful.

Think we’re going to have to start calling you Alastair Campbell there Mark P, your attempts to spin this first as adolescent high-jinks on the part of James O’Toole and second as trolling would fit neatly into that man’s particular manual.

Maybe the independents wont see the internal bulletin for what it is – maybe you’re right and they’ll dismiss it as growing pains.

It’s just unfortunate, then, that the internal bulletin seems to confirm the thoughts expressed by independents on this forum here and on others.

Trolling indeed.

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WorldbyStorm - February 9, 2012

Well, that’s good re your first paragraph. I’ve been in a formation that shook itself apart and it wasn’t pretty and it did the left no service at all. The ULA is key to the household tax campaign so you appreciate my concern, though the paradox s that it shouldn’t be seen to dominate the campaign…

Anyhow it will be interesting to hear what rationale is presented for the communication.

NOTE: this comment is addressed to you Mark.

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WorldbyStorm - February 9, 2012

Dimplex, I agree that the language used about Joan Collins is particularly irritating. But there’s no point in giving out about Mark P. He didn’t write the memo and he isn’t responsible for it. Moreover in fairness to him would you expect him to go thermonuclear here or anywhere online? It seems to me perfectly reasonable that someone who was in a party that was a component of the ULA would want to get together with his comrades and mull it over.

Even if one accepts, as I do to an extent, that this is an articulation of a view that isn’t new and one that has been a matter of concern for others the fact it has gone public howeverthat might have happened is a step change. At the least I’d expect others to sit and think about it.

Sure, we know there are problems from the off with the ULA structure, but to be honest knowing many of thsoe indepedents you reference inside it and counting them as good comrades I also don’t think they’re quite as pessimistic as you that there’s no way forward.

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Mark P - February 9, 2012

Once more, I’m referring to you as a concern troll because that is exactly what you are. You are an obsessive opponent of the ULA. You have been since the very start of the project. And you periodically show up here under a different drive-by pseudonym, peddling the same line and attempting to stir up rows.

You are not in any way shape or form concerned for the future of the ULA, the good name of the Socialist Party or Joan Collins or the attitudes and fortunes of independent members of the ULA. All of these things are merely convenient sticks to beat the ULA with. And so, I refuse to engage with you as if you actually were a concerned friend on this occasion and I’ll refuse to do so when you show up with another new name in a couple of months time and again a few months after that.

What independent members of the ULA think is of interest to me, but you are no such thing. And the views of a drive-by internet troll are of no particular interest to me.

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Mark P - February 9, 2012

The order is getting mixed up a bit here. That last comment was addressed to Dimplex of the never-ending names rather than you, WbS.

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WorldbyStorm - February 9, 2012

No problem… it’s an odd commenting system on wordpress.

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23. que - February 9, 2012

While the talk of the dissolution of the ULA would be worrisome its the creation of non-aligned groups within it thats for me very worrying. As a few posts have highlighted non-aligned are having trouble tying in and rather than being absorbed into a wider structure have been atomised into a new group (or have already left). Rather than being divided by 2 groups its now got three.

One other point on that section about the report. It talked about how the NPA in France fell from 10k to 3k members but the upside was now they had freedom to act.

Apparently a positive outcome!

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24. Chloe - February 9, 2012

“The main thing that struck me about the doc is that the author seems really, really angry at the idea that independent members of the ULA would like to have some kind of input into decision-making. A ‘sop to democracy’ indeed!”

As an independent member of the ULA I agree with what was said in that memo, for the simple reason that the thought of being locked in a room with the rest of the ‘independents’, the thought of having to pick one or 2 people that I have never met to speak for me is worrying. I would much rather speak for myself. I didnt join it for that. Furthermore, I think a lot of the comments are people in a stupid uproar about nothing. The SWP have there views, I have others, I’m sure everyone here has a different point of view. This is just a thought but how about we stop bitching about each other and respect the fact that we’re going to have conflicting views? It doesn’t do anyone any good to squabble on an open forum like this. If you have concerns about attitudes go directly to them coz here you are just shit stirring and dividing people and its not helpful! Grow up, build a bridge and get over it and lets get on with things.

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Ed - February 10, 2012

Chloe, if you are really an independent member of the ULA, I will eat my hat, my shoes, my belt, three pairs of socks, a guitar case, a paint brush, a Dublin-Belfast rail ticket and a copy of the ‘Beginner’s Guide to Online Sock-Puppetry”.

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Chloe - February 10, 2012

I actually am an independent member. New enough to pollitics and I hate all the ‘they said this, we said that’ crap. I do think these kinds of discussions aren’t helpful. It starts out as one thing then gets fixated on another thing. Do I want to be represented in the ULA? Of course I do. Othewise I wouldnt have joined. But I just dont want it to be like 2 people who dont know my opinions so how the hell are they gonna represent the vast, varying ideas and opinions of the independent members

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pat - February 10, 2012

I’d be very surprised if you were not a member of the SWP yourself, based simply on the fact that I can’t believe anyone who is not a fairly staunch SWPer could start a comment here with; “I agree with what was said in that memo”.

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Chloe - February 10, 2012

it was only the thing about the independents Pat. I find it offensive that you can’t believe that someone could agree with a ‘one person, one vote’ system that is outside of the swp but there we have it. Whether or not we’re ready for that in ULA I dont know

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pat - February 10, 2012

Ah, I’m now convinced you are a leading member of the SWP and a close collaborator with the author of the above ‘memo’.

But leaving that aside for a minute, do you see any merit in the position put forward by Eddie Conlon and Brenden Young who state the following:

“There is now an attempt to resolve differences by those, particularly the SWP, arguing that we need a delegate conference with full decision making powers. This is a mechanism to get around the fact that there is not agreement on perspectives. Because agreement cannot be found through discussion, it is to be imposed via majority vote. It is an organisational solution to a political problem. The ULA is not ready for such a development:

The election of voting branch delegates could lead to a race to have the most delegates; and the dynamic would be to create a leadership structure based upon proportionality of representation / delegates at the conference.

A voting conference, at this stage – where there is no agreement on political perspectives – will lead to polarisation and either paralysis or passive split. The majority will have its positions adopted, so what will the minority do?

On account of being organised, the SP and SWP will have an organised intervention into the conference – rendering the presentation of the views of independents less likely.”

Do you not think this is a valid point in the discussion for independnts?

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Mark P - February 10, 2012

Chloe, while I tend to share Pat and Ed’s scepticism about your bona fides, just in case you are serious:

Turning the ULA into an organisation with a leadership and decision making progress decided by one person one vote, without taking account of the nature of the ULA activist base would be a disaster. That activist base consists in its majority of supporters of two highly organised blocs. In effect decisions would be determined simply by which of those two blocs mobilised more of their members for a particular event or vote, which would tend to make discussion irrelevant and to further marginalise people who are not in one of those two blocs. Further, it would contain an inherent dynamic towards competitive mobilisation, which would be a waste of everyone’s time and energy and also be very destructive.

I was in the English Socialist Alliance. I’ve worn that t-shirt. I have no desire to repeat the experience. The ULA is an alliance of organised groups (very organised in two cases) and individuals and it needs to develop structures which take account of that fact. There is nothing particularly democratic about decision making being determined by whether more members of the Socialist Party or of the SWP show up on a particular day.

The SWP’s desire to move to a structure which ignores the reality of the ULA might simply be a result of them not really thinking the consequences through. Or it may be that they are frustrated at their inability to convince their allies of their views on particular issues or of the central importance of their tactical priorities and they think that they stand a better chance of being able to get their way. Either way, they are mistaken.

On another note, you make an appeal for people to stop “bitching about each other” directed towards the SWP’s critics. But it seems to have escaped your notice that these exchanges were prompted by a long SWP document which made quite a number of harsh and less than honest criticisms of just about all of their allies in both the ULA and the Household Tax Campaign. Surely your admonition would be better targeted at them?

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Ed - February 10, 2012

“The thought of being locked in a room with the rest of the ‘independents’, the thought of having to pick one or 2 people that I have never met to speak for me is worrying. I would much rather speak for myself. I didnt join it for that.”

I guess that bit of sock-puppetry is helpful anyway if it sums up the argument the SWP is making against independents having representation. Let’s just unpack it a little. As I understand it, the SWP are offering two alternatives to the idea of ULA independents meeting separately to pick representatives for the steering committee.

A) the status quo (reps from SP, PBPA, WUAG etc. on steering ctte, but no indies)

B) Indie reps elected by whole ULA conference

Under option A, Chloe doesn’t have to worry about picking ‘one or two people that I have never met to speak for me’, because nobody will be speaking for her at all. Under option B, she won’t have to worry either, because the people who get onto the steering ctte will most likely be the ones who have support from one or other of the organised groups in the ULA. So either way, Chloe will not have the opportunity to ‘speak for myself’.

The idea of ULA indies choosing reps isn’t perfect, of course, because they may have divergent views on various issues. But it’s a lot better than them having no input at all at the top of the ULA, and they should be able to develop some common views on organisational questions at least.

BTW, the last two posts were written after the one that appears below starting with a paragraph about the NPA

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25. Ed - February 10, 2012

I think the stuff about the NPA is pretty meaningless, if I can figure out what he’s saying (and I’m not sure I can), he seems to be arguing that the NPA has lost members because it doesn’t organise in the same way as the SWP, which just begs the question, how has the British SWP been getting along in comparison, would they happen to have lost any members lately, or did they ever have 10,000 members to lose in the first place?

There’s an interesting discussion of some of the problems the NPA has been having here:

http://www.solidarity-us.org/node/3490

I doubt any of the independents involved in the ULA will be totally shocked by this email, if they’ve been around the left a few years, it fits pretty well into the SWP m.o that people will be familiar with. Wild over-estimation of what can be done if everyone on the left stops discussing the merits of various proposals and just runs after the SWP and their latest get-rich-quick scheme? Check. Paranoia about how everyone is out to get the SWP? Check. Bitterness towards anarchists and ‘semi-anarchists’ (whoever they might be?)? Check.

It was already clear from the experience with the Enough campaign that the SWP hadn’t suddenly changed its way of doing things. I saw one SWP member online last summer trying to blame the ‘libertarian left’ for the failure of the Enough demo in Dublin to attract more than the usual 200-300 people. If they’ve been saying stuff like that in public, it’s not too surprising to find them raging against the ‘sectarianism’ of the SP and the ‘conservatism’ of Joan Collins or Seamus Healy in private. It’s always someone else’s fault if their overheated predictions don’t work out.

I’ll say it again though, what’s really striking about this is the vitriolic hostility to the idea of independent ULA members having some kind of representation on the alliance’s steering committee. I mean it’s almost frothing at the mouth on this point, ‘insane’ is the word that’s used. I think what would be really worrying for independent ULA members would be any sign that the SWP were likely to get their way on this point – they need to recognise that if people have joined the ULA, but not the SWP, there’s a reason for that, it’s not because they’ve made an unfortunate mistake and should be happy to do what the SWP tells them and have the SWP represent their views anyway.

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WorldbyStorm - February 10, 2012

Very much agree with your last paragraph. The idea that an independent rep, and my God as you say note the condescension towards indos, could represent the interests of indos without having to represent all their varying but obviously not impossibly heterogenous views, given the ULA has some fundamental lines all must agree with, clearly escapes that writer.

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pat - February 10, 2012

+1

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26. Chloe - February 10, 2012

@ED Wont let me reply anymore. That is a very good point for indos which will hopefully be resolved in the coming months. I just hate the bashing on forums. It serves no purpose

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pat - February 10, 2012

Unlike bashing others internally, when they have no way of responding. Yes, differing views actually being discussed is a backward idea.

But not being in the SWP I’m sure you agree with that.

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27. Julian Assandwich - February 10, 2012

Okay, there is a simple solution to this independent stuff.

Independent ULA activists across the country are starting to organize/unionize in the interests of the ULA. We’re beginning to meet each other, say hello and accentuate what we have in common. What we don’t have in common, we will discuss until we progress. It won’t happen over night – nothing worthwhile does – but it’s good to get to know others in the same boat and share our experiences.

If you are an independent and reading this(or even in a small unrepresented group), please get in touch and email weareragbags@gmail.com, even if its just to say ‘hello’ and join the discussion with your fellow independents. In fact if you’re not independent, why not pass on the message to any you might know?

We’ll keep you informed and you can participate as much or as little as you want. The idea is its a forum for isolated independents to be heard – be it concerns or positive proposals. We’ll move along together and make sure there is a bit of fair play in the ULA, the ULA being our prime concern. The steering committee is aware of our existence and approves of the process.

Unless youre James O’Toole I think we can all agree that this is a positive development.

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28. Peader - February 10, 2012

One of my favour Daily Mail headlines of all time, and there are many, was in reference to the above James O’Toole – “Right ot work campign leader hasn’t had a job in 12 years” or something like that – SWP is a polticial cult with soem good people involved but to think that a Left political movement could be built aroudn anything with it at its centre is just fantsy. United Left Alliance Co-operative Coalition of Love rats life in me pants.

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29. revolutionaryprogramme - February 22, 2012
WorldbyStorm - February 23, 2012

Excellent overview as always RP. A real insight into the dynamics at work, and the challenges of having different blocs in a formation.

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30. revolutionaryprogramme - March 2, 2012

Non-aligned members of ULA sub-committee on structures selected without an election – http://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/2012/03/02/non-aligned-members-of-ula-sub-committee-on-structures-selected-3/

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31. Feadog - March 2, 2012

Blah piss-up blah blah brewery.

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Mark P - March 2, 2012

Seems perfectly sensible to me.

It’s not a decision making body, but a group formed to come up with ideas for structures and make recommendations about them. If there were four non-aligned activists who wanted to be on the sub-committee and who were nominated by their branches, why hold a postal vote to get rid of two of them, rather than having them all on and thereby getting input from a wider range of branches and individuals?

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revolutionaryprogramme - March 2, 2012

I agree that it is a perfectly reasonable outcome but it does make all the palava over the registration for a postal ballot to elect 2 non-aligned reps look a bit unnecessary in retrospect.

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Mark P - March 2, 2012

I can only presume that a structure was put in place in case there were so many people nominated that it would be impractical to take them all. It’s only fair to all involved to outline how prospective members would be chosen / not chosen in advance. Then it when it turned out to be a number that could be easily accommodated, a decision was taken to just have the four of them on.

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32. revolutionaryprogramme - March 6, 2012
revolutionaryprogramme - March 15, 2012

Details of conference announced – http://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/2012/03/15/details-of-28-april-conference/

From email received today – remains unclear whether there will be any votes on motions related to items 1 & 2…

2012 Conference
As previously announced the ULA 2012 Conference is being held in the Gresham Hotel, 23 Upper O’Connell st, Dublin 1 on the 28th of April.

The general agenda for the day is: 1) The crisis and the resistance to austerity; 2)The ULA and the building of a new party for the working class, incorporating the report on structures; 3) Election by individual/non aligned members of reps and nomination of founding groups reps to the Steering Committee and 4) Brief closing rally.

-Arrangements are also being made for a creche facility and cheaper lunch options

-Also don’t forget that in order to participate in the conference, we all need to renew our membership for 2012. The deadline for this is Thursday the 5th of April at the latest. The membership cards are available in the ULA office and are being also distributed to your local branches. Please respond to this email and we can put one in the post for you. The membership fee is 10€ waged and 5€ unwaged, you can pay by cash, cheque or online using the ‘donations’ link on our webpage.

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33. revolutionaryprogramme - March 15, 2012

ula sub-committee on structures asks for input from the membership – http://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/2012/03/15/ula-sub-committee-on-structures-asks-for-input-from-the-membership/

As one of the non-aligned reps on this sub-committee it will be interesting to see what responses we get

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34. revolutionaryprogramme - April 11, 2012

My election statement for one of the two independent/non-aligned positions on the ULA national steering committee is now online at http://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpr…ing-committee/

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revolutionaryprogramme - April 11, 2012
35. revolutionaryprogramme - April 29, 2012

The election result for non-aligned reps on the ula national steering committee:

Decided on first preferences

Joseph – 19
Therese – 17
Alan – 4

Joseph & Therese elected

Quite a low turnout as apparently there are 130 non-aligned with 2012 memberships. But the result is an accurate reflection of the politics of the ULA non-aligned.

My longer report on the conference, somewhat more positive than C. Flower, is at the link below.

revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/2012/04/29/longer-report-on-yesterdays-ula-conference-9

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revolutionaryprogramme - April 29, 2012
36. Feadog - April 29, 2012

“Quite a low turnout as apparently there are 130 non-aligned with 2012 memberships.” There’s a surprise.

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