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My Political Position—–Paddy Healy May 4, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.

My Political Position—–Paddy Healy

The position I outline here is my own position only. It is based on my experience as a left-wing activist at national and international level over 50 years. It is my personal response to current disunity on the left.

There is a broad spectrum of political analyses in Workers and Unemployed Action. We are united on the basis of our constitution and rules, nothing more, nothing less.


Ultra-Left Destruction

Competitive recruitment between the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party has destroyed the ULA and is now narrowing the Campaign against Household and Water Taxes to such an extent as to make it ineffective. The number of people attending meetings, rallies and marches of CAHWT is dwindling as the two “Marxist” groups advocate policies which are impossible for ordinary people and their dependents to follow. Despite the destruction of the campaign, the two groups will feel justified if they get some recruits out of it and ,if above all, they get more recruits than each other!

Competitive ultra-leftism is now becoming a huge destructive feature on the left and a large obstacle to politically reorganising masses of ordinary people on a principled political basis and a serious obstacle to organising effective campaigns against austerity. I believe that I have an obligation to explain to left-wing political activists why these things are occurring and how these obstacles may be overcome and to generate a discussion on the way forward.

The Roots of The Problem

I touched on the roots of the problem in a footnote to my original document (I have appended it below). Trotsky founded the Fourth International in 1938. The defining class battles in the past 70 years occurred during the second world war and its aftermath and during the fall of Stalinism in Eastern Europe. Political currents are not revolutionary just because they say they are or because they use Marxist terminology or even because they have developed a comprehensive political programme. Indeed all currents have many committed and able members. It can only be concluded that they are revolutionary if they pass the test of history and continue to contribute to the achievement of workers liberation.

Before his assassination, after the war had broken out, Trotsky wrote a document entitled the “Fourth International and War”. While it was correct to designate the war as inter-imperialist and accordingly the revolutionaries were required to oppose the war-mongering of their own capitalists, nevertheless the revolutionaries should be in the trenches with the workers and should not personally evade conscription. Normal agitation would be inadequate in war time and the Trotskyists should be prepared for armed action in appropriate circumstances. This advice was disregarded by the Trotskyists, notably in the UK and France. Leaders spent the war safe from conscription in Ireland and the Isle of Man. Even after the Nazis had taken over in France and set up a puppet French government the French Trotskyists did not change their abstentionist position. Nazis were rounding up Jews, trade unionists, Gays and transporting them to labour camps and extermination camps. There was virtually no Trotskyist participation in “La Résistance” in the face of this barbarism.

There was a major revolutionary heave of the working class throughout Europe as the Nazi regime and its puppets crumbled. Because of huge errors the Trotskyists were totally marginalised in this surge. They had not been in the trenches with the workers and they had not participated in the armed struggle against the Nazis in France and the Balkans. The Fourth International broke up into competing sects largely confined to the intelligentsia.

The working class surge in the UK resulted in the “war hero” Churchill being ousted by the Attlee led Labour Party. The Trotskyists were completely marginalised and confined to intellectual circles because they had not been in the trenches with the workers who were now surging forward. Crucially the entire left of the trade union movement fell into the hands of the Communist Party who had been in the trenches,particularly after the collapse of the Stalin-Hitler Pact. (This happened in Belfast also where the CP became dominant due to absence of the British or Irish Labour Parties)

The international surge led to a major revival of Labour in 26-county Ireland and the development of Clann Na Poblachta .

Interest in Trotskyism did not substantially revive on the left until the Hungarian events of 1956.

During the late fifties and sixties each Trotskyist sect either developed or hardened their view that they were the sole inheritor of the revolutionary heritage of Trotsky. Each saw itself as the one true church outside of which there was no socialist salvation!

Almost all Trotskyist currents expanded membership in the late sixties and seventies in the context of student revolts , opposition to the Vietnam war and the suppression of the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia.

A successful revolution against Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe is a key plank of the Trotskyist programme of world revolution. This took a huge turn in 1980 when the Polish regime was forced to allow the free trade union Solidarnosc to organise following a workers revolt. What followed is history including the fall of Stalinism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Germany. Crucially, the outcome was not a victory for workers power but for international capitalism.

This was a huge setback for the international working class. (SWP UK saw it as a replacement of one form of capitalism by another). The victory of the right in eastern Europe politically strengthened capitalism world wide and gave rise to new attacks on workers all over the world and the reinforcement of Thatcherism/Reaganism and neo-liberalism (extreme capitalism generally).

Were the Trotskyist currents able to give strong support to the workers revolt in eastern Europe and make serious efforts to lead it along the path of workers democracy? We all did some things. For example, the League for a Workers Republic of which I was a leading member sent computers and printers to the Polish shipyards and transported them to there in person. Solidarnosc reps spoke in Ireland and were received by Clonmel Trades Council and Clonmel Corporation. Doubtlessly other currents did similar things.

But the reality was that the Trotskyist currents were largely irrelevant. Apart from a handful of émigrés in Paris there were no Trotskyists in Eastern Europe. Above all, not alone was there no Trotskyist leadership of a single large western trade union but the Trotskyists were not serious contenders for leadership in a single one-and it was forty two years since the founding of the Fourth International.

Solidarnosc was driven to the right by Western Trade union leaders, above all by the leadership of the American AFL/CIO and the American Federation of Teachers. (when I was sent as President of the Teachers Union of Ireland as fraternal delegate to AFT Congress in 2005, I refused to take part in a “Celebration of 25 years of Solidarnosc” at a fringe event) European Social Democracy also played a significant role.

Seeing that the revolution in Eastern Europe was a huge crucial and even defining part of the Trotskyist Programme one might have expected that all the currents would come together, pool their resources, and give maximum support to the progressive elements in the developing revolt. Nothing of that kind of any significance occurred. Their main preoccupation was to use East European activists to help themselves recruit in the west. (There was a row between SWP UK and PCI(France) when Lambert (PCI Leader)“poached” Edmund Baluka (Szechin Shipyard) from Cliff (SWP Leader))

The failure of the Trotskyist currents to organise clandestine work in Eastern Europe over 30 years since the second world war was inexcusable. It meant that they did not take the Trotskyist programme seriously and it raises serious questions about their internationalism.

The weak position in Western trade unions was a product of the second world war debacle. This was compounded by failure to admit and attempt to rectify the error and the resulting prioritisation of conflict/competitive recruitment with other Trotskyist currents.


This is not a matter of apportioning blame to individuals or to particular currents.

The reality is that all of them failed historic tests which had huge negative outcomes for the international working class. The first failure facilitated the decapitation of the post-world war revolutionary process by the Communist Parties, particularly in France and Italy. The second failure in Easten Europe facilitated the strengthening of world-wide capitalism against the working class.

This means that none of the currents have any revolutionary authority and continue to be seriously disfunctional. It means that none of the currents are “the one true church” . They cannot admit this or address their own history because they believe they “are the one true church” and failure to make the “the one true church” dominant through individual recruitment will be the death of the revolution according to each of them. They are in a vicious circle from which they cannot escape. The belief that the dominance of your own current is a prerequisite for a successful revolution can justify all manner of behaviour. For example, if your rivals are dominating the ULA, it is your duty to sharply factionalise against this even if this disrupts the regroupment generally. Hence the SWP internal bulletin of Feb 2,2012 quoted in my earlier document. Hence the failure of the SP to call for the resignation of Mick Wallace because it would reduce ther domination of the ULA by alienating Clare Daly TD.

The deadly rivalry between Trotskyist currents has particularly negative consequences in the current world situation of capitalist crisis. Because of the demise of the Communist Parties the Trotskyists are no longer a left opposition to Stalinism in the workers movement. The social democrats have been severely weakened in many countries including Ireland. This means that genuine principled socialists have to take responsibility for the fate of the working class as a whole and therefore for the rapid political regroupment of whole layers of workers. This must take priority over individual recruitment to individual groups. Until political currents accept this they are an obstacle rather than a help.

In the absence of a recognised and proven revolutionary international leadership, we must do all we can where we can. We must all be committed to political reorganisation at national level and to co-operate with like-minded people who give priority to this project. On the other hand, we must seek out all opportunities to create a revolutionary international. It is important to remember that all new internationals involved a coming together of political formations which had already existed from a number of countries.

There are many groupings and individuals throughout the world which share some of this analysis.

Socialist Party Withdraws from ULA—my earlier doccument 19/01/2013

Rivalry between Socialist Party (SP) and Socialist Workers Party (SWP) Ends ULA Project.

Towards a New Way Forward

The Socialist Party has effectively withdrawn from the ULA. It has also vetoed the registration of the ULA as a political party. (It has formally withdrawn since-PH)

Prior to the withdrawal of WUAG from the ULA, I predicted that the rivalry between the SP and the SWP , which had already seriously damaged the ULA, would intensify and would kill off the organisation as a credible left alternative. WUAG had already concluded that the activities of the SP and the SWP had made impossible the task of politically reorganising workers in a mass way through the ULA. As such reorganisation is the core objective of WUAG, that organisation withdrew. It will now seek to carry out this mission on a national basis in alliance with like-minded individuals.

The effective break-up of the ULA is a set-back for the left which must be overcome as quickly as possible. This document is a contribution to the necessary discussion. As similar problems are occurring in other countries, it is to be hoped that this document will make a positive contribution to a more general international discussion.

After a brief ceasefire between the two groups after the withdrawal of WUAG, the contention between the SP and the SWP has now reached maximum intensity. Unfortunately the contention has now reached new heights also in the Campaign against Household and Water Charges. This can be seen from the SP statement on its website in which its effective withdrawal from the ULA was announced and from the proceedings of the recent rally (Jan 12, 2013) of The Campaign against Household and Water Charges 1.

In the course of the statement dated Dec 14, 2012 the Socialist Party said:

“The Socialist Party has major problems with the political positions and approaches being adopted in the ULA at present. We have communicated to the Steering Committee that we don’t see any real or productive basis to pursue our serious concerns in the ULA at this point, particularly given the positions argued and adopted by the different elements at the last Council meeting. ——

For the Socialist Party, the battle against the household and property taxes is a priority, and it will take more of our focus and work and as mentioned, in that context we will be diminishing our participation in the ULA.

However, in doing this we are not in any way stepping away from the struggle to help to build a new working class party on a principled basis. That is precisely what can happen in an organic way, by fighting on these issues which can potentially bring thousands of ordinary working class people into activity, which is essential if a new mass working class party is to be built.”

The Socialist Party has also informed the ULA that it will not be attending meetings of the ULA leadership body known as the Steering Committee. The Socialist Party has veto powers on that Committee. Presumably, it has decided that decisions taken by that body are of no further concern to the SP or alternatively that the residual Steering committee will be unable to take any decision in its absence!!

Given the level of betrayal carried out by the Labour Party in the Budget, the building of a mass left alternative is more urgent than ever. In its statement the Socialist Party says that it is not “stepping away” from this objective. But, clearly, it does not see the ULA playing a role in this. Clearly the formulation “diminishing its participation” is merely a cover for abandoning the ULA which effectively now no longer exists in its original form.

The SP believes that the building of a mass left alternative will occur “in an organic way” through the Campaign Against Household and Water Charges. That is the meaning of the sentence in their statement: “That is precisely what can happen in an organic way, by fighting on these issues which can potentially bring thousands of ordinary working class people into activity, which is essential if a new mass working class party is to be built.”

The CAHWT is their replacement for the ULA as a field for recruitment and agitation.

As the government has made a non-payment campaign against home tax impossible through deductions from pay, benefits and grants and trade union leaders are blocking industrial action, the SP (and the SWP) is driven to proposing unofficial industrial action in a situation where all the evidence is that this is impossible at this time 1. There is a danger that the disfunctionality associated with the SP/SWP rivalry could drive the CAHWT and with it the entire left along a suicidal path.

This turn by the SP is a huge error. Political reorganisation of workers is now not only necessary but the ground for it is uniquely favourable. This is clearly shown in recent opinion polls. “The essential rejection by 44 per cent of the electorate of all current possible political permutations is also indicative of a strong level of latent support for a new political party.” (Sunday Independent January 13).

As trade union leaders make it impossible for workers to organise to defeat their enemies by industrial action/demonstrations etc, entire sections of workers are driven towards political reorganisation. That is the fertile ground which now exists and it is being abandoned in practice by the SP and the SWP in favour of individual recruitment to their own organisations.

The three founding groups of the ULA were WUAG, SP and People Before Profit Alliance which includes the SWP. The decision of the SWP, in Feb 2012, to prioritise recruitment to the SWP rather than to the ULA or even to People before Profit has effectively split People before Profit. Joan Collins TD did not attend its most recent national conference and Eddie Conlon, a member of its leadership, resigned from the organisation in advance of the conference. The SWP position was set out in a leaked internal bulletin3 dated Feb 2, 2012.

The same internal bulletin ( issued before the Mick Wallace matter arose and before the resignation of Clare Daly TD from the SP) announced that the ULA had already collapsed.

Clearly the SWP had abandoned the strategy of building a mass left alternative through the ULA (if it were ever genuinely committed to the project) several months before the SP came to the same conclusion.

Why? Why? Why?

At a time when working people are facing the most intense attacks on their living standards for over 60 years, most genuine left political activists, trade union and community activists and people of good intent will be scandalised by the divisions and the attendant acrimony on the left. It is scarcely believable that at a time of greatest opportunity and greatest obligation to working people that the SP and the SWP would prioritise domination over each other rather than the building of a mass left alternative.

I believe that I have a duty to explain the roots of this debacle in an attempt to ensure that it does not recur. The work of building a mass left alternative on a principled basis must continue urgently without the SP and the SWP unless and until these organisations demonstrate in practice that they give priority to politically reorganising whole sections of workers over recruitment to their own organisations.

The SP and the SWP are part of separate international political currents each headquartered in London. Because the two organisations are biggest in the UK, the rivalry is particularly intense there though it exists in several countries. The two international currents are two of the many fragments of the Fourth International founded by Leon Trotsky which broke up during and following the second world war. The founders of these currents had made disastrous political errors 2 in the war years which isolated them from the workers movement particularly in France and the UK. (I can discuss this further with those interested)

For many years, I have held the view that the main objective of these organisations is to become bigger and more influential than each other. Despite their protestations, all other objectives take second place. Prioritisation of individual recruitment to competing political sects makes objective analysis of the political conjuncture or realistic assessment of the mood and orientation of workers impossible. Above all, each must be more “revolutionary” than the other. This leads to totally wrong decisions at best and, at worst suicidal policies for the genuine left. It makes entirely impossible the incorporation into the genuine left of layers of the workers springing into new political life. This is not just an Irish phenomenon but an international phenomenon.

Let us look at developments in the ULA in 2012 and attempt to understand them from the above point of view.

Before the Wallace admission on tax evasion, the SWP had decided that the ULA had collapsed and priority should be given by their members to recruiting to SWP rather than to ULA. (See extract from leaked SWP Internal bulletin pasted below)3. SWP members were to publicly criticise their allies. Up to that period the ULA had been relatively successful having elected five TDs and having held a successful conference. It was clear that the ULA hadn’t collapsed. Why then did SWP make this “turn”? Because the SP with two TDs had come to publicly dominate the ULA with Joe Higgins taking leaders questions, this was perceived by SWP as giving SP a major advantage for growth and recruitment with SWP playing second fiddle. Given the long history of in-fighting in the UK, this did not look good from SWP HQ in London! Irish leaders of the SP could be much more effective in assisting their parties in other countries including the UK, to recruit members based on their “success” in the ULA. In order to set up the ULA, it had been agreed by the SWP that decisions would be taken by consensus as befitted an Alliance. But now the SWP launched an aggressive campaign to outgrow the SP. Consensus decision making, they said, must be replaced immediately with one person one vote! This opportunist policy took no account of the fact that the ULA was an alliance of three separate political parties. According to SWP, there could be no waiting until serious political differences 4 had been resolved in fraternal internal discussion before a single united party could be formed based on “one person-one vote”. SWP was fully aware that any such decision would break up the Alliance. This cynical policy was designed to appeal to the many new inexperienced people who had joined the ULA and hopefully strengthen the SWP in its rivalry with the SP. Given the history of the SWP in this and other countries, it was widely understood that there was no possibility of the SWP carrying out majority decisions with which it did not agree as was also the case with the other two components because of unresolved political4 differences. The SWP position was a cynical ploy to further recruitment to the SWP at the cost of disrupting the ULA. The aggressive promotion of the SWP had already, at that stage, caused serious tensions within the People Before Profit Alliance. These were further exacerbated when the SWP unilaterally announced, without consultation even with People before Profit, that Clr Brid Smith (SWP and PBP) would stand in the same constituency as Joan Collins TD (PBP) in the next general election!

In the early days of June 2012, Mick Wallace TD publicly admitted that he had intentionally withheld VAT collected from house buyers from the Revenue.

It was clear to WUAG that the greatest possible distance should be put between the ULA and Mick Wallace.

On the following Saturday at a meeting of the Steering Committee WUAG proposed that ULA call on Mick Wallace to resign from the Dail. The WUAG view was that Wallace was not a fit person to be a public representative. I explained that ULA campaigns in defence of public services and in favour of tax equity would be irreparably damaged by any association with Wallace and that the entire ULA project would be damaged as a result. The SP announced that while we should condemn the actions of Wallace, it would veto any attempt to call on him to resign from the Dail. I spent some minutes attempting to persuade the SP representatives in a fraternal manner that this would prove to be a disastrous decision which they should change. The SP cited the democratic rights of constituents as justification for the intended veto. The meeting was informed that WUAG would be calling for the resignation of Wallace in its own name in any event on the following day. Other Dail deputies had already called for the resignation of Wallace. Anything less than a call for his resignation would be interpreted by workers as “being soft” on Mick Wallace and tax evasion.

Why would any sane socialist organisation take a soft line on the continued membership of the legislature by a capitalist builder who had publicly admitted not passing on VAT on the sale of houses to the Revenue? Incredibly, the real agenda of the SP was to retain a dominant position over the SWP within and outside the ULA. The SP had two TDs and the SWP had but one. I believe that the Socialist Party took the view that if the SP called for the resignation of Wallace that Clare Daly TD would leave the Socialist Party and that this would reduce the SP to one TD, the same as the rival SWP. The SP decided to take a softer line in order to maintain dominance over the SWP within the ULA. ULA TDs had called for the resignation of Michael Lowry TD. Why not Mick Wallace?

Of course Clare Daly left the SP shortly afterwards in any event. Because of the position taken by the SP at the Steering Committee Clare was able to explain on television that she did not call for the resignation of Mick Wallace because the Socialist Party had not called for his resignation!

The SWP had turned the second annual conference of ULA into a “bear garden” in pursuit of their campaign to set aside the Alliance and replace it with a unitary organisation based on one person-one vote though serious political4 differences between the components had not even been discussed let alone resolved.

WUAG decided that the opportunist policy of the SP on the Wallace issue and the virulent factionalism of the SWP if allowed to go unchecked would fatally damage the ULA as a vehicle for the creation of a mass left party on a principled political basis.

Consequently, in an attempt to retrieve the situation, WUAG tabled two motions for the ULA Steering Committee. The first proposed that the ULA call on Mick Wallace to resign from the DAIL as it had proposed when the Wallace issue first arose. The second proposed that the SWP withdraw its internal bulletin of Feb the second which announced that the ULA had collapsed and that the other components should be criticised publicly. In a rare show of unity, the two motions were vetoed by the SP and the People before Profit Alliance including the SWP!!! In a cynical manoeuvre, the SWP representative proposed that there be a three month moratorium on publicly criticising each other. An unaligned delegate quite tellingly asked: “Why only for 3 months” He had summed it all up.

The ULA is now in complete disarray. The lesson is that it is impossible to attempt the political reorganisation of Irish workers in alliance with the SP and/or the SWP unless these organisations fundamentally change their approach. Each will prefer that any regroupment be damaged rather than allow its rival to out-grow it. Out-growing their rival is their over-riding priority.

There are of course periods in political life when left wing organisations should give priority to recruiting individuals. In quiet periods, that is all that can be done and it should be done in order to prepare for times of political crisis. The problem arises when organisations prioritise recruitment to their own political organisations at all times including periods such as the present when a major breakthrough is possible and necessary at a mass level.

Seamus Healy and his colleagues has been working in South Tipperary for 25 years. It is the only constituency where a working class based political organisation has replaced the Labour Party as the main political organisation of workers. The SWP has been active in a number of provincial centres for at least as long without success. Though they have had many dedicated and capable members in these centres they were unable to make a significant impact. The problem was at Dublin/London leadership level not at local level.

There must be a new and early attempt to reorganise Irish workers. The rivalry between the SP and the SWP and the related prioritisation of recruitment to their own sects makes it impossible for them to make a positive contribution to the political reorganization of entire layers of workers at present.

I am not suggesting that the door should be closed to political alliances of left-wing organisations in future. But any future alliance must be subject to two preconditions.

Firstly, it must be on a principled political basis. Above all, participants must rule out coalition government with capitalist parties. Secondly, and crucially, all participating groups must place the political reorganization of entire sections of workers above recruitment to their own organisations.

I understand that a new initiative will be launched by WUAG in the near future.

I will not be entering into further public political discussion on these matters. I am of course available for further discussion with individuals including the many well intentioned members of the SWP and the SP.

I will be devoting my time to politically reorganising actual groups and layers of workers. That is the task of the hour. The failure of the ULA initiative must be quickly overcome. There is no time to lose. Otherwise the Irish workers will pay a heavy political price for the failure of the ULA.

Paddy Healy, former Member of Steering Committee, ULA 01/01/2013

1 The rally was well attended by approximately 450 people of whom at least 200 were political activists. Speaking queues were hogged by SP and SWP activists. The SP advocated mass rallies “of at least 30,000” and unofficial workplace walk-outs. Not to be outdone, the SWP advocated “shutting down the country” through unofficial strikes. While these events are very much to be desired they bear no relation to the current mood among workers. Because of the demoralising effect of the treacherous activity of the trade union leadership in recent years, workers have not staged spontaneous walk-outs even when their pay has been cut! This will, of course, change in the future. But it is a suicidal error to base immediate tactics on a change that has yet to take place.

2 Before his assassination in 1940, Trotsky has written a document entitled “The Fourth International and War”. In this document he warned that peacetime agitational methods (strikes, demonstrations etc) were insufficient in a situation of war and occupation. If the workers were in the trenches, it was necessary for the revolutionaries to be in the trenches with them irrespective of the revolutionary attitude to the war. The British and European Trotskyist leaders ignored this advice. Safe from conscription, some spent the war years in neutral countries, including Ireland. After the war, the British social democrats had no difficulty in marginalising those who were not in the trenches. Many workers had been wounded themselves or had lost relatives. The French Communist Party had no difficulty in marginalising those who had not participated in underground armed struggle against the Nazi occupation. The Trotskyist movement broke up into several sects. The sects were revived after the war under the leadership of those responsible for the war-time debacle. There was no admission of mistakes. This meant that the membership was largely confined to the intelligentsia and isolated from the working class. Factionalism and rivalry became the main reason for existence of each sect. Unfortunately this position continues to this day ( Pierre Broué,Trotskyist and Lecturer, University of Grenoble has written on the history of the Trotskyist movement during the war.)

3 Extract from SWP internal Bulletin Feb 2, 2012

*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 (this had been planned by SWP as a non-ULA event led by SWP only without consultation with SP or WUAG( PH))

4 Political Differences.

There are serious political differences on a number of issues between the 3 founding components of the ULA. For example the SP is opposed to the ULA organising in the 6 counties, capitulating to Unionist pressure. Indeed a leading member of SP attempted to prevent trade unionists living in Co Tyrone being admitted to a rank and file trade union network. Following this incident, WUAG found it necessary to declare that any attempt to prevent those living or working in the six counties from joining the ULA would be a red line issue for WUAG. While the SWP is technically in favour of the ULA organising on an All Ireland basis, in practice it agitates there in a largely partitionist framework . It has never raised a northern issue on the Steering Committee of ULA. In my opinion, it merely declares that it is in favour of the ULA being organised on an All Ireland basis in order to out-recruit the SP among nationalists workers.


1. que - May 4, 2013

I appreciate that as a person who is not a ULA/SWP/SP person that maybe I am not the target market but I find it hard to understand why an article which really is about why little head way is being made in Ireland in 2013 does there need to be a fairly detailed examination of what happened in 1938 and the Trotskyist view of WW2. The impact of history is long but an analysis of what Trotsky wrote in 1938 should have no part in a discussion about the CAWHT. That invariably they do is an indictment of the Left. I appreciate that you may have to include such references because you feel its the best way to communicate with the Trotskyist groups but with all deference to remembering history the relevance of what Trotsky believed in relation to WW2 should have very little relevance for any leftist in Ireland in 2013.

I agree with the tenor of your post I just think it a pity that trying to maximise the success of the CAWHT requires going so far back into the past.


LeftAtTheCross - May 5, 2013



2. John Goodwillie - May 4, 2013

As another person who is not ULA/SWP/SP or even WUAG, I read the article as expounding a view that it was necessary for socialists to be where the working class is and not too far ahead of it; and that the historical references were part of the argument. To ignore history is to be condemned to repeat it.


ejh - May 5, 2013

Yes, but to be aware of it is also to be condemned to repeat it. As far as I can see from contemporary events, anyway.


soubresauts - May 6, 2013

Or, as Andre Gide put it:
“Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens we have to keep going back and beginning all over again.”

And it seems that the same things are being said over on this politics.ie thread, though with extra vulgarity of course:


Bob Smiles - May 6, 2013

There is no discussion that can’t by made worse by seanie lemass on politics.ie


smiffy - May 6, 2013

The Pimpernel himself!


Gearóid - May 6, 2013

A poster sympathetic to Sinn Fein with an obsessive hostility to formerly Moscow aligned Communist Parties? I wonder who he could be.


eamonncork - May 6, 2013

Impossible to tell. But maybe he’s written an amazingly interesting book recently that we should all buy.


smiffy - May 6, 2013

I only read books written by people with PhDs. Seanie hardly falls into that category, surely.


3. A Friend - May 5, 2013

Trots – you got to love ’em.


4. Jim Monaghan - May 5, 2013

Paddy healy is a verry serious leftwinger. He and Seamus have done incredible work in Tipp. Paddy is a very respected Trade Union figure.Thus, what he says deserves consideration. I disagree on some of the history but not, alas, all.
Paddy recruited me to Trotskyism. A keynote of this process was being anti coalition with bourgeois parties. No truck with them whether small ( and Wallace comes under small) or large. Another theme was the unfinished part of the national revolution.
What Paddy says about the debacle of the ULA deserves respect and answers from the other key players.So many years into a recession (depression) and the left remains sidelined.For all teh running around in a multitude of demos. Shouting as if it was the battle of Jericho, we are not a threat to anyone.


Mark P - May 5, 2013

It’s as if he set himself a challenge: Could he possibly be as tendentious as he is long winded and rambling. As I grew old and died while reading, I’m still not entirely sure if he succeeded.

He did at least provide me with one brief moment of levity, when he started talking about organising in the North as a “red line” issue for a group that has taken three decades to think about organising in North Tipperary. But on consideration, one laugh did not remotely justify wading through this.


que - May 5, 2013


Thinking about the examination of Trotsky in the above I just had a flash of prejudice that Trotskyists would not be able to point out where they thought Trotsky was just plain wrong or had become somewhat irrelevant. That’s was a bit hasty on my part so to correct that I ask you where if at all do you think that Trotsky was out and out wrong, or disproven.


Mark P - May 5, 2013

Trotsky wrote an enormous amount, and at different times expressed opinions that straightforwardly contradicted earlier opinions. Much of what he argued was wrong at the time, and more of it is irrelevant or wrong now. As with most “Trotskyists”, I’m a Trotskyist in the sense that I’m a Marxist who is opposed to Stalinism, not in the sense that I hold any bizarre beliefs about Trotsky’s inerrancy.

It would be easier to list the few areas where I think that Trotsky’s opinions are completely accurate and can be made use of in an uncomplicated way today than it would be to list the areas where he was flat out wrong or needs updating.


ejh - May 5, 2013

Have a pop then


que - May 5, 2013

yeah thats a fair enough answer Mark, appreciate the response


5. ivorthorne - May 5, 2013

Mick Flippin Wallace is eccentric at best and an ejit at worst. That he played any role in the disintegration of the ULA …


There are bigger issues in Ireland. If the parties of the left cannot see beyond petty matters then perhaps we’re lucky they aren’t in power.


CL - May 5, 2013

The only discernable position on economics in Paddy Healy’s long piece above is that he is against austerity. This is not a defining left-wing position. There are now anti-austerians all across the political spectrum from far right to far left, and all shades of ideology in between,-from Marine Le Pen, through George Soros, Larry Summers, Sinn Fein,etc, etc to Joe Higgins etc etc.
It is difficult to see how the differences between the various Trotskyist groups are relevant to capitalism’s current crisis and the deteriorating material position of the working class.


6. Branno's ultra-left t-shirt - May 5, 2013

Paddy Healy’s searing indictment might, just might, be a little more convincing if he acknowledged that he was the leader of a Trotskyist group for 20 years and that that group, the League for a Workers Republic, make the SWP and SP look a) very non-sectarian and b) very successful.
Just because his brother leads a reasonably decent local group in Tipperary doesn’t mean Paddy can come over as the all-seeing, all-knowing prophet of Irish Trotskyist failures. Not until he acknowledges his own at least.


7. Vanya - May 6, 2013

I no longer subscribe to trotskyism and agree with much of what is said from my personal experiences this side of the water. I should point out however that a number of trots served both in the British armed forces (such as Duncan Hallas, Ted Grant and Charlie Van Gelderen) and the resistance (such as Ernest Mandel and Pierre Frank) in WW2.


8. Nick Wright - May 6, 2013

(Mark P)Trotsky wrote an enormous amount, and at different times expressed opinions that straightforwardly contradicted earlier opinions. Much of what he argued was wrong at the time, and more of it is irrelevant or wrong now.

In this, as in much else, he can perhaps be contrasted to Stalin.


neilcaff - May 6, 2013

Oh christ, the Stalin hagiography cult have migrated over from Socialist Unity.

There goes the neighbourhood…


Mark P - May 6, 2013

They have all the political honesty and human decency of their close intellectual cousins, the holocaust deniers.


9. Nick Wright - May 6, 2013

On Trotsky and Stalin’s comparative writings I was thinking mostly about the National Question. It is an issue that always sorts out the patriotic revolutionaries from the national nihilists on both sides of the water.


10. The Far Left in Ireland: Plus ça Change, plus c'est la Même Chose | Socialist Unity - May 7, 2013

[…] More on this same story from Cedar Lounge, by Paddy Healy […]


11. Michael Gallagher - July 23, 2013

Thanks Paddy for filling us in on the ‘shuffling/stumbling for power” -which is all what this seems to amount to- by the SP and SWP.
Not much has changed it seems, at least in the twenty years since I became aware of either of them (SWM and Militant).

I have often wondered -and PH’s enlightening piece has me wondering again, if the apparent disastrous organisational and tactical mistakes made by the SP and SWP were so obvious to PH and others inside and outside the ULA etc., why were the warnings ignored? Why do both parties still persist on the same narrow focused and blinkered collision courses?

Dare I suggest three possibly reasons?

1.One or more individuals judgement in both parties has been corrupted in the persuit of power.

2. Their is one or more agent provocateUrs in both parties.

3. The leadership in both organisations are incapable of leading effectively.

And all to the detriment of left unity.

Maybe I’m wrong or maybe I haven’t seen enough episodes of Get Smart, or maybe both.

Having said all that, where to from there?

ps: I only became aware of all the shenanigans very recently, so please forgive the small belated contribution.


John Goodwillie - July 23, 2013

The reasons are, I think, more profound than Michael Gallagher suggests. He seems to think that the problem is one of individuals.

I have no experience with the ULA but considerable with two forerunners, the Socialist Labour Alliance (1970-1972) and the Socialist Labour Party (1977-1982). Each, like the ULA, had at least two Trotskyist groups and a number of members with no specific group affiliation. This might have worked if the unaffiliated members had been the overwhelming majority. But their numerical weakness meant that the groups dominated the life of the organisation.

In the original article Paddy Healy refers to Trotskyist groups’ struggle for dominance as an international phenomenon. Sociologically it may be a struggle for dominance. But it is fought as a struggle for the correct programme or policy, which acquires a totemistic value: the adoption of correct ideas becomes the key to acquiring mass support. In this they ignore Marx’s dictum “Every step of real movement is more important than a dozen programmes”.

But the question would remain as to the perspective in which real movement was envisaged. It would be encouraging if there was evidence that those debating questions like left unity were asking what the historic role of the left is to be. Personally I believe that the internationalisation, deconcentration, and deindustrialisation of modern capitalism in a world of shrinking resources make it no longer possible to posit either a workers’ revolution establishing a workers’ state or a parliamentary road to the traditional concept of socialism. But that is another whole argument.


12. Michael G. - July 24, 2013

I don’t think the problem is one of indivduals per sé, there are many problems within the left. But obviously individuals are supposed to make up a collective leadership in any so called democratic political party and obviously in among that are opinions and ideas about policy etc. But, when it comes to the tactics of the nitty gritty of every day actions on the streets etc, public impressions/perceptions are very important. In my opinion I don’t think that is taken seriously enough by either the SWP or SP, and I only mention those two because I was a member of both.

I’m talking about winning respect and holding onto it.

There are many examples, PH mentions some above, but I’ll give a couple more without naming indivduals.

At one SWP meeting a long time ago, -in my more naive days as an apprentice socialist- one of the main speakers (and still a very prominent leading member) at the pub meeting/discussion after a demonstration, was in full flow with ‘his’ audience – until he nearly bit his tongue. And I quote: “…when I get into power….” end of quote.
Perception? Impression? He lost respect.

In my time as an activist trying to help build the SP in the North Inner City, it soon dawned on me that they were more about recruiting members and moving on than about informing/educating and supporting the commmunity. This was also the caes with the SWP.
Perception? Impression? They lost respect.

As someone once said, it’s the little things that make the big things count.

While I have a ot of respect for some TD’s and Councillors, I definitely don’t think we’ll see a socialist revolution through Dáilty Towers.
Will we need parliaments in the future? Who knows? Do we have or will we get the leadership needed to take the struggle to the next step? Who knows?

I do know for certain that the conerstone for my socialism is the humanity in James Connolly’s. That’s good enough for me.


13. Bob Purdie’s memories of Dublin | Come Here To Me! - February 22, 2016

[…] spent three days in Dublin and on the remaining two nights stayed with Paddy Healy of the League for a Workers Republic, a small Trotskyist group which was not affiliated to the […]


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