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The Left in the RoI. What is to be done? Redux. January 31, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

The Phoenix, as noted in comments last week has a lavish spread on Brendan Ogle. And given how mixed opinions are on him his efforts to bring a certain unity to the Irish left are bound to be…er… controversial. The Phoenix more or less says that the variegated nature of the left, spread across a range of alliances and formations predicates against unity. But how to unify them, how to bring ‘a unified brand, common structure or strategy’? Or indeed to see them move away from ‘pursuing their own electoral goals’? Plug some names into a putative ‘left alliance’ that incorporated a good number of those the Phoenix references ‘SF with 23 TDs, AAA/PBP’s six, left Inds another six or so and two SDs’ and one can see how a ‘unified brand’ or a common electoral strategy is… unlikely.

There’s also mention of Michael Taft and the claim he faces a disciplinary procedure from Unite in part due to blog posts that suggest that an ‘economic recovery [is] taking place and that FF in particular was benefiting int he polls. At the same time, Taft argued, the left is still fighting last years’s protest battles and failing to create an alternative vision’.

Putting aside whether that is an accurate summation of the issues it is difficult to find fault with that broad analysis, that indeed a sort of patchy recovery is taking place, that FF’s vote is solidifying – at least to some extent, and that some of the energy and steam has gone out of the protests, not least because the government and FF have gone to great lengths to take those issues off the table for the time being.

All that could change, but then a government that is taking defeat after defeat in the Dáil in terms of votes and staggering on doesn’t seem to me to be too likely to try to up the ante any time soon.

Anyhow, returning to the broader issue, if unity wasn’t hugely present at the height of the crisis now as the aftershocks recede, albeit the grievous impacts remain in some form or another, difficult to see how matters would be much improved now.


1. lcox - January 31, 2017

I’d want to suggest that we might stand back and take a slightly more critical look at the cliche that unity is everything. Not just because it isn’t clear that even a large left-wing party will Make All The Difference (it would be worth thinking about the Greek and Spanish experiences vs e.g. Portugal and Corbyn in this respect) but also because the chances of a majority left-wing party in Ireland are not, em, very high.

I don’t mean to trash the whole idea of a party or of coming together but to think a bit more clearly about what could realistically be achieved and the costs of putting those energies in one place (as it so often is, activist eggs in one basket which when broken tends to really demobilise people). And to look perhaps at some of the more promising examples of left parties in Europe which have come out of / still represent complex coalitions of people with different perspectives.

In the Irish case the practical question that would have to be solved is no doubt what position to take on government formation processes which has been a systematic problem for far left groups in Europe down through the years. There’s a good new book by Paolo Chiocchetti which shows this – refuse to engage and you’re damned, get involved and you lose. The result being that very few far left parties manage to sustain a decent level of support (by the standards of such things) over, say, a 10-year period.

Optimistically though I would want to say that the fact that several left parties, some significant trade unions and a lot of working-class community groups were able to work together over a sustained if shorter period around water charges (an issue which may yet provoke a resurgence) seems fairly historic despite the well-known tensions. I can’t remember when we last saw any such development at more than token levels in this country – any suggestions?

Liked by 4 people

2. sonofstan - January 31, 2017

Tempted to suggest you could make this a weekly item?

Liked by 1 person

3. Joe - January 31, 2017

Is there anything to be said for a series of left unity discussion meetings in the Teachers’ Club?

Liked by 1 person

4. dublinstreams - January 31, 2017

why should there be unity? I sometimes think Unity is used to get in the way of collaboration.

Liked by 1 person

Joe - January 31, 2017

Is there anything to be said for a series of left collaboration discussion meetings in the Teachers’ Club?

Liked by 1 person

Aengus Millen - January 31, 2017

I agree with this. I think a slightly lesser but more achievable goal would be for the leftwing parties to work together even without any formal combination. The anti-eviction bill was a good example of this wedged FF got the support of the rest of the left embarrassed FG. We need more of that. Admittedly the fact that only two private members bills are allowed a week is a problem but the left parties need to agree on what these bills should be. Regina Doherty whatever you think of her organizes with FF and even with Michael Lowry the left parties also need to work together.


dublinstreams - January 31, 2017

why should they agree about what the bills should be?, each groups gets their turn so they should submit what they want, and then support each others bills and motions. Again you trying force unity.


Aengus Millen - February 1, 2017

But this is my point. I’m not saying any party should be stripped of their chance to put forward what they want. But before they do they should confirm that it’s something the other parties will support. Because ultimately their job is in opposition to Fine Gael not to put forward bills that will have no effect. They can use their time during debate and leaders questions (as people like Brid Smith do extremely well) to put forward their specific plans and concerns.


dublinstreams - February 1, 2017

“I’m not saying any party should be stripped of their chance to put forward what they want.” yes that is what you are saying because you are saying they shouldn’t put anything forward unless the get agreement from the other parties


5. botheredbarney - January 31, 2017

I follow my own lights, not Ogle or any other individual leader.


6. ivorthorne - January 31, 2017

Right so. Let’s imagine a scenario in which a coalition of SF, PBP-AAA and a handful of left independents had a Dail majority.

What would the programme for government look like? You could probably get general agreement around things like an Irish NHS, free 3rd level access, no water charges, no bin charges etc. but would they be able to even agree a timetable around these changes? Could they compromise on interim measures? Would AAA-PBP for example be willing to tolerate current corporation tax official rates for a term if SF and the civil servants showed that best evidence indicated other projects would be put at risk if there was an immediate increase?


dublinstreams - January 31, 2017

ivrothorne you are creating a hypothetic (united?) situation to create problems rather then dealing with where we are now.


ivorthorne - January 31, 2017

I’m just trying to imagine what the goal is.

The left have had reasonable success uniting AGAINST policies. That’s no small achievement and increasing the left’s representation in the Dail would be great. But if the Left gets a majority and either can’t form a government or one collapses quickly, it would mean the electorate would lose confidence.


dublinstreams - February 1, 2017

well to address your original point I think we’e discussed PBP’s attitutude to corporate tax before, their main point being that they should atleast actually pay 12%, but then you’re onto imagining the left gov’s failure already. Isn’t think “oh they are against lots but what are the for?” a very tired cliched view,


7. An Sionnach Fionn - January 31, 2017

I was in Drogheda today. Scotch Hall, the premier shopping centre, was all but deserted, the retail staff numbering one or two per outlet bar Dunnes, a quarter or more of the retail units unoccupied, and the whole place looked to be in trouble. Walking around the town I got the same impression. A place still at the bottom of an economic well. Anecdotal, I know, but that recovery is very patchy indeed.


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