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A piece on Labour April 11, 2016

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.
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I’ve seen this article praised by many in Labour on various Social Media platforms.
Interestingly it doesn’t really mention Sinn Fein but is a critique of the far Left and FF, FG.

Any other post election pieces by Labour people worth reading?

Comments»

1. WorldbyStorm - April 11, 2016

There’s a kernel of truth in some of what he says, in relation to organisation, etc, etc, but only if one closes one eye and accepts that what he says is the full picture.

But given that he doesn’t actually articulate a clear path forward for Labour or even what he means by ‘socialist’ it is difficult to take seriously his complaints about – for example, seeming to find the very term ‘working class housing estates’ offensive something that would be an entirely uncontentious statement at any time in my own political life of thirty five or so years. Everyone knows precisely what that short-hand means. Then there’s a sort of tilt into rather oddly phrased anti-SF paranoia in relation to supposed ‘ruling of working class estates’, something that is simply risible when one has any close relationship with said working class estates. To suggest that organising (he uses – and it’s telling that he does – the term ‘ruling’ with no evidence that others use it) in such estates is illegitimate or only a function of Sinn Féin from the WOI is so weirdly ahistoric given his own party’s history as well as that of so many other reformist and revolutionary parties both here and elsewhere in Europe and further afield that it’s clearly shaped simply to make a political criticism rather than being based on anything concrete. Labour was no slouch in organising there itself. Why this is suddenly a vice is hard to understand.

Furthermore it’s also difficult to take seriously his simultaneous complaint with the above about the supposed lack of emphasis on class or supposedly ‘privileged’ activists entering communities – not least given the class profile of the LP itself across many years. Indeed one has to suspect that in his heart of hearts he think the whole piece could be boiled down to one name – that being ‘Paul Murphy’. But if that is so one could counter with Ruairi Quinn or anyone of a number of LP members who would come from ‘privilege’. Again, not much point in blaming others for what one waves away in ones own case.

Finally the line about serving the demos and masses over the community is neat but it rather evades where the class actually is. The easiest way to find it (or indeed the middle class) is where it actually lives and/or works. That latter is more difficult now due to lower levels of unionisation, and of course a lower level of industrialisation than say the UK or other parts of Europe in the past. So, not exactly rocket science that people would go and organise in communities and that left parties would gravitate towards those communities that are broadly speaking working class.

There are problems with that model if that’s the only model one uses rather than being part of the process, but it’s not unreasonable in and of itself.

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2. dmoc - April 11, 2016

But what chance of a real switch, with the 7 dreary specimens who survived? Burton, Kelly, Howlin (shudder, shudder, shudder). Not exactly an inspiring slate to lead a change in tack. Low grade careerists.

A middle class party for middle class people (my dad is a lifelong supporter, and the middle class thing came as a shock to him when I told him; he can’t wrap his mind around it!).

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WorldbyStorm - April 11, 2016

But you’re absolutely right. The LP has morphed into a sort of FF/FG lite whose focus is on a sort of ‘management’ and not terribly well of certain fenced off areas (such as welfare provision) and certain social issues. None of which as such are wrong but when that’s all it is, when there’s no vision of a genuine societal transformation above and beyond that, well, what’s left?

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3. crocodileshoes - April 11, 2016

Garibaldi pointed out on Sunday that Ed Walsh’s anti- public servant rant (part 327) managed to summarise the slump without using the word ‘banks’. McCaffery manages not to mention the word ‘austerity’. I work with many former Labour voters and I suppose some would vote for them again – but not unless they ruled out coalition with FF and FG. This is the central point that baffled Labour veterans – the Rabittes and Quinn’s – don’t seem to get: that austerity economics are so damaging to the people they represent that nothing can justify signing up to such programmes.

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WorldbyStorm - April 11, 2016

Yeah, it’s such a huge omission. I feel that there’s this amazing blindness there (or indifference). They just don’t or won’t get it.

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4. gendjinn - April 11, 2016

It seems a really long way of saying that none of the other groups on the left have the right perspective. In fact their perspectives are so wrong as to render fruitless any possible alignment with them.

Therefore we shall reflect in opposition and return to pragmatic, principled, people powered Labour policies in the next government.

Oh and mass protests are a waste of time. Unless you want to stop something. Which is bad because you should only be mass protesting for something.

I think.

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WorldbyStorm - April 11, 2016

🙂 That’s about it, isn’t it?

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gendjinn - April 12, 2016

To some degree I may agree with Colum.

The current post-WW2 model of representative democracy has failed in the sense that it pursues policies that cause poverty and suffering in their populations, for the almost sole benefit of a few. Legislatures have been captured and suborned by a trans-national oligarchy.

Since 1980. All monetary, fiscal and economic policy has serviced this elite. To the detriment of everyone and everything else.

We occasionally, temporarily hold a brake to the downward trajectory, that dissent is either remedied or co-opted and neutralised by the system. All the while the overarching long term project of concentrating all global wealth in the hands of a few continues.

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5. Colum McCaffery - April 11, 2016

I had two main concerns when writing the piece. One was concern that the Party would cease to exist. The second was more important: that dissent generally in Ireland has been utterly accommodated and made a part of conserving the system.* I put the two together to argue that the only viable future for Labour was to become the party which stepped away from and opposed the accommodation; it’s a job that needs to be done.
*Here’s a short piece of mine from 2013 which might be of interest: https://colummccaffery.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/now-that-almost-everyone-is-anti-establishment-whither-dissent/

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gendjinn - April 12, 2016

Colum,

Surely the water charges non-payment campaign contradicts the utter accommodation of dissent within the system?

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Colum McCaffery - April 12, 2016

I don’t think so. It represents an example of seeking and getting concessions.

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gendjinn - April 12, 2016

Are you saying that issues oriented activism is either successful and dissipates or is co-opted and fails? That a better long term approach is raising class consciousness, increase engagement in the politics and eventual success at the ballot box?

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1798Mike - April 12, 2016

I thought your article was interesting and well-written. It is unusual to say the least, to get any effort at political analysis from Labour Party sources – and I am don’t intend to be disparaging by stating that.
On the basis of your argument, all working class struggles have simply being examples of “seeking” and “getting concessions”. The fact is that the very need to act, protest and struggle for, what might seem to observers, basic & not very dramatic concessions may have huge, historic political consequences, causing major shifts in political consciousness & political allegiances. For example, the failure of the Unionist government and the British government to treat the demands of the Civil Rights Movement seriously and with any immediacy, had, as we know huge consequences. We lived with the results of that.
Further, I do not think you need have any fear of the likes of Brendan Howlin trying to compete with AAA/PBP on the streets. Brendan will continue doing what he has always done – looking after Brendan. Likewise Alan.
I think you have to recognise that Labour does not have a stable voter base any more. Labour accepted the Fine Gael narrative about the recession and the need for austerity totally – probably the first time, in a coalition, it capitulated so completely. This too, was going to have consequences and these have not all played out yet.

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WorldbyStorm - April 12, 2016

That’s very true re how unusual it is to get analysis from LP sources and fair dues to Colum for making that effort and providing something thought provoking but while agreeing with gendjinn on problems indeed defeats since 1980 on I still find it difficult to discern a path forward in this analysis – too much of it reads as I said slightly differently in my initial comment – as an outline of why the LP isn’t SF or further left parties or activists and why their approaches are wrong rather than an explanation as to what it should do. The analysis re SF and working class communities also seems to elide it with (some of) the further left when I think both tactically and strategically on the ground there are significant differences of emphasis and approach borne of different sizes, goals and experiences.

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WorldbyStorm - April 12, 2016

And sorry I should have +1 your comment mike, think its spot on

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6. Michael Carley - April 12, 2016

There’s a lot that’s good there and if I have some time I might try to address it, but the thought that came to me was something that I read flicking through the memoirs of the Labour General Secretary who expelled the Militant. He said that they weren’t that concerned about Higgins and co., but it suited them to isolate the likes of Emmet Stagg. Having thrown out Joe, and weakened the remaining Labour left, it was probably inevitable that Labour would eventually end up as the kind of party the blog says it has, detached from the movements and with no hold on `working-class estates’.

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gendjinn - April 12, 2016

I think the Labour party has painted itself into a corner. Over the last four decades I’ve watched them support one contemptible FG government after another. Over that time I’ve watched the leadership of all the trades unions become co-opted by the business and moneyed classes.

Labour just needs to pray there won’t be another GE this year. Keep the head down for 5 years and hope people are stupid enough to forgive them. I mean, they did FF, so there’s hope.

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7. paulculloty82 - April 12, 2016

I don’t understand why Calum disparages the notion of “community activism” – when Spring was at the height of his powers in Kerry, his sister was on the council and had a genuine concern for local communities, but gradually Labour drifted away from such an ethos, allowing SF to capitalise. We’ve already seen in Dublin how SF and AAA-PBP have captured the working-class vote, so unless the LP returns to the grassroots, the various left alternatives will render it redundant.

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8. Colum McCaffery - April 12, 2016

My point is that if the Labour Party returns to what most members see as the grassroots, it will be redundant. I’m talking to people within the Party and this is the most likely course the party will take. That is to say, the desire among members is to focus on issues, campaign in the community, take part in public protest etc. Now, this is what I see as “left conservatism”; it poses no challenge to the structure of inequality. I am trying – unsuccessfully – to point the Party away from the consensus which seeks progress through groups putting pressure on the “political class”.

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9. Colum McCaffery - April 12, 2016

I’ve just noticed that I’m the only person here operating under my real name.

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Michael Carley - April 12, 2016

No you’re not.

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Colum McCaffery - April 12, 2016

Apologies, Michael.

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Michael Carley - April 12, 2016

Not, incidentally, that it makes me any more credible than anyone else. Anyone here who doesn’t use their real name has their own reasons.

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WorldbyStorm - April 12, 2016

Exactly. People here have various reasons for this. The main thing though is consistency and courtesy. If people consistently use a username anonymity isn’t an issue – sockpuppeting etc is not acceptable. Courtesy is the other issue – sure, cut and thrust in discussion but openness to views we disagree with is crucial.

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10. crocodileshoes - April 12, 2016

I see no real way forward for Labour but I am interested in Colum’s thoughts on single-issue protest. Think of the fellow in school who always defied the teachers and wouldn’t wear the uniform etc: I was an adult before I realised how unthreatening this guy was to those in power. It is, to use the cliche, the quiet ones you have to watch. Duchamp, or someone, remarked that in order to succeed as a revolutionary one must be as unremarkable as a civil servant. Someone else said that rebellion is the opposite of revolution. I’ve been on my share of demos and will no doubt be on more – but the suspicion that I’m part of a tolerated, managed dissent is always at the back of my mind.

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Colum McCaffery - April 12, 2016

Croc, I said in the piece that this was perhaps the one credible way forward for Labour but it was on the basis that there is a need to challenge the orthodox and no one is doing that at present.

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CMK - April 13, 2016

There is no credible way forward for Labour. Like AC/DC they should just call it a day. Although, AC/DC have contributed more to the human race and will leave a lasting legacy that will bring pleasure to generations still to come. Which is a lot more than can be said for Labour.

Talking last night to someone whose partner has their disability payments cut by Joan Bruton down to zero, followed then by months of ‘independent’ assessments to prove they were, in fact, entitled to disability. That’s just one, small, example of the Labour Party 2011-2016. The idea that a political organisation whose members stand over policies like that, have anything to contribute to the Left is barmy.

Labour might hang on for a decade or two but are finished as a political force. Not only are they under pressure from their Left but also also from Social Democrats and groups like Independents for Change.

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crocodileshoes - April 13, 2016

Don’t know whether you intended the ‘Joan Bruton’, CMK, but it is indeed difficult to tell the policy difference.

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EWI - April 13, 2016

that in order to succeed as a revolutionary one must be as unremarkable as a civil servant.

All too true. The dirty work of ‘fixing’ the Republic’s 1916 celebrations in a revisionist bent was done by such a person.

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