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The strengths of the Irish left… August 29, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.
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We’ve been discussing weaknesses on the left, problems with various campaigns, there have been a myriad number of complaints about this party or that party, or all parties. And non-parties, and think tanks and groups and so on. All of this can, when constructively directed, be very useful and important. Self-criticism and self-awareness in tandem with self-reflectivity (which is not necessarily the same as self-awareness) are vital to the success of any leftist project whatever its stripe.

And it is true that in the past four or five years there’s been a steep learning curve – or even further back if one is to count in the most useful educative experience of the Green Party entering government – and granted they were leftish, more than leftist, but their example is one that had some impact further afield – and not alone for the catastrophic conclusion to that time in government, but for the very fact they were there at all.

Obvious points on that curve – or would it be more appropriate to say aspects drawn from that process, would be: the general passivity of the broader population in the face of the worst socio-economic crisis in generations; the concentration on electoral politics and contest as a means of exercising political power on the part of that broader population (and the cathartic effects of same); the problems raised by radical cadres being drawn into the day to day parliamentary and constituency process, but the paradox generated by that being a product of the outcome of elections contested by same parties and formations; the limitations of campaigns as a means of political activity; the lack of unity on the Irish left between its various parts; the minority nature of that left; the tension between different forms of leftist thinking and approach and so on.

Each of these is worth treating of in and of itself.

But what of the opposite, what of the clear strengths of the Irish left? How does that fit into the broader picture, and what are these strengths?

After all, if – to focus momentarily on electoral politics – the election in 2011 while no new dawn did do one thing of value that was in bringing a broader and deeper mix of leftists into Dáil Éireann than ever before.

So what else?

Comments»

1. CMK - August 29, 2013

One strength? There are more overtly Left wing, socialist, parliamentarians in Ireland than in the UK and US combined? I know it’s more a reflection of electoral system but it does show that, in comparison to those two countries, the hegemony here is not totally, utterly hegemonic.

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WorldbyStorm - August 29, 2013

Ah no, don’t get me wrong, pointing to numbers was just to get the ball rolling, I’m genuinely interested in others opinions and any I might have missed.

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2. Michael Carley - August 29, 2013

Sometimes survival is a victory. Ireland has managed to hold on to a radical left parliamentary presence, not quite as many as the WP had, but holding its own or slightly advancing. Looking at the UK, the only `radical left’ MP you will see on telly is George Galloway. Ireland gets Joe Higgins, Clare Daly, and Joan Collins.

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sonofstan - August 29, 2013

…..And Caroline Lucas.

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Michael Carley - August 29, 2013

I don’t count the Greens as left: look at what they’re doing in Brighton.

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sonofstan - August 29, 2013

Wouldn’t disagree – I was applying your scare quotes around ‘radical left’ to her as well as Gorgeous.

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Michael Carley - August 29, 2013

Fair enough. I sit corrected.

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Ed - August 29, 2013

You’re right about the Greens in general, but apparently Caroline Lucas herself has pledged to stand on picket lines in opposition to what Green councillors are doing in Brighton:

http://liberalconspiracy.org/2013/05/08/caroline-lucas-says-shell-join-picket-against-her-own-party/

http://www.thegreenleft.org/2/post/2013/06/we-need-to-talk-about-brighton.html

And in passing, the leader of the Green group on the council is called Jason Kitcat. That is all. All puns about breaks etc. welcome.

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Ed - August 29, 2013

Was curious to see if she’d followed through on that: apparently she did, and visited the picket line to say she supported the strikers, but she was also accused of undermining the strike by taking part in ‘community clean-ups’. Make of that what you will:

http://m.theargus.co.uk/news/10487622.Rubbish_piles_up_as_Brighton_and_Hove_braces_itself_for_second_day_of_bin_strike/

http://libcom.org/news/caroline-lucas-green-scab-17062013

http://libcom.org/library/statement-community-clean-ups-brighton-cityclean-strikers

http://www.carolinelucas.com/blog.html/2013/06/19/update-on-cityclean-dispute/

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Gewerkschaftler - August 30, 2013

I’d be inclined to give Ms. Lucas the benefit of the doubt. From what I’ve seen from here she is way to the left of the Irish Greens.

However, the general rule with Greens is, the nearer they get to power, the quicker they abandon any commitment to social justice.

See Germany, see Ireland.

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Jim Monaghan - August 30, 2013

And RBB and Seamus Healy.

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maidhc - August 30, 2013

George galloway . The man whose take on the Syria attacks was its the Jews the jews. It was like a golden dawn video. How is his nonsense radical left unless a call to jew baiting can be rolled out in all cases. Them people will do anything.

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Michael Carley - August 30, 2013

That’s why I put `radical left’ in inverted commas.

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3. irishelectionliterature - August 29, 2013

One of the side effects of having so many elected representatives is the media coverage they get (not all good I might add). Clare Daly, Joe Higgins, Richard Boyd Barrett and to a lesser extent Joan Collins are all guests on a fairly regular basis on both TV and Radio shows.
Issues they bring up tend to get some publicity too.
Between 2007 and 2009 (prior to Joe Higgins election to the European Parliament) the Left wouldn’t have figured as much on radio and TV.

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Jolly Red Giant - August 29, 2013

Paul Murphy is also making regular appearance on national and international media

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4. LeftAtTheCross - August 29, 2013

It’s not a huge consideration in the grand scheme of things but there’s a reasonably healthy ‘internal life’ in the Left as witnessed by the likes of Cedar Lounge passing its 7th birthday, and a multitude of other websites and blogs and on-going Facebook discussions etc. And more importantly the fact that this energy is breaking out of the ‘internal’ into the wider world through traditional print medium, and proving to be reasonably sustainable, thinking here of LookLeft which is in its 4th year now and also Rabble. Not breaking out widely enough of course. The fact that a Left publication is on the shelves of Easons has to be seen as quite a step forwards. Being out here in Meath we don’t have piped TV on our 84-inch plasma surround-sound home cinema, but DCTV is another significant project.

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workers republic - August 29, 2013

in the last no. of years positive developments , in my experience have been;
Solidarity Books (and KAZ BOOKSHOP) before that. ran by WSM (I’m not a member) they organised booklaunshes, lectures, films MayDay and international Womens Day events Study groups inc. one on Kapital
they make the shop available for compaign meetings and events.
Independent Workers Movement: is a fighting union with no burocrats. It mostly represents low-income workers, national and other-national, It’s members who are members of political groups e.g. WSM, CPI SWP and unaligned members ( mise, le meas) work together in solidarity.
The Anarchist Bookfare in LIBERTY Hall brings activists , from many campaigns together with speakers from many countries e.g. CNG, I.W.W. Basque socialist org.s authors of recent books etc.
the CAHWT campaign achieved a great victory in the first year against the Household Charge, The Gov. had to bring in draconian methods, even threathening to seize pet dogs, luckly my wife didn’t know that to grab the “LPT”. Ihope ’twill be a pyric victory. I have critised groups for sectarian self-promotion and rivalry before. ‘nough said. But there is a network around the 26co.s We can be hopeful.

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workers republic - August 30, 2013

I don’t mean a formal network, but an informal organic network of activists who can work together against , for example Water Privatisation.
some of the most important campaigns are Shell-to-Sea, campaigns against Hospital closures and against cut-backs to handicapped children. ’twas good to see activists of different groups support the campaign to keep the Orthopaedic Hospital open, WSM, SP,SWP,WP,RSF, Eirigi,SF and most importantly, “ordinary people”. Right Wing Councilor, turn-coat (LP to FG) joe O Callaghan tried to jump on this, but was challanged by former and current Health Workers, reminding the attendees at a public meeting that a Joe had wanted the lands of the hospital sold and one man said that O Callaghan as a Siptu official had “sold us down the river”.
The commitment and dogged endurance of the Shell-to-Sea campaigners, local people and activists is an inspiration to us all.

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workers republic - August 31, 2013

Sorry I left-out IRSP, good so many groups can work together.

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5. doctorfive - August 29, 2013

The effortless ability to keep Marc Coleman awake at night

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WorldbyStorm - August 29, 2013

🙂

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RosencrantzisDead - August 29, 2013

Our opposition is ridiculous. This is a strength that cannot be denied.

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6. ivorthorne - August 29, 2013

Great idea for a post.

One of the advantages is that the Left appears to be holding the support it gained in recent years. This puts it in a good position for future elections.

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7. doctorfive - August 29, 2013

Great at asking questions. Terrible at answering them.

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8. sonofstan - August 30, 2013

Variety?

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9. Gavin Mendel-Gleason - August 30, 2013

Maybe it’s just me, but there seems to be a breaking down of barriers and increasingly large conversation on the left. A few years ago I would have known about SWP, SP, WP, CPI as a ‘Leninist’ alphabet soup, now I’ve had sustained conversations with members of all of them, and much of the Labour Left as well.

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Michael Carley - August 30, 2013

That’s because we’re all getting older.

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Enya Rand - August 31, 2013

That’s the impression I’m getting Gavin. That’s a source of hope. And it’s why I’m getting less patient with the doctrinaires.

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CMK - August 31, 2013

Who are the ‘doctrinaires’?

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10. crocodile - August 30, 2013

Literacy. The rule of thumb regarding online comment – ‘the less literate, the further right in origin’ – is truer here than in the UK or US.

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sonofstan - August 30, 2013

Literacy

That’s because we’re all getting older.

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sonofstan - August 30, 2013

(To be fair, at least two of the commentators on this thread are relative striplings.)

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11. Joe - September 2, 2013

A sense of humour is always a strength, I’d say. Has the Irish left a sense of humour?
I remember that in the 80s the WP (Smullen’s faction?)circulated an internal theoretical journal called Class Politics. It came out once or maybe twice, prompting one member to say at a meeting that Class Politics was the Party’s theoretical journal because it existed, in theory. Ba rum pum tish.

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