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Good and bad protests… July 17, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Pat Rabbitte is in the SBP attacking the Jobstown protests – for apparently ‘this type of nihilistic politics touches very few people but represents the everyday tactics of the Trotskyist left who believe in permanent revolution’.

Hmmm… and he sharply tries to draw a line between protests he was involved in in Jobstown and this other one… apparently his were ‘always for something’… ‘usually it was for basic community facilities…’.

I don’t know. I’d have thought given the proximity of water charges to the protests they too ‘were for something’. He might disagree with that campaign – indeed he does… ‘the machinations of the Trotskyist hard left would have little impact were it not for the new populist environment which is the legacy of the crash’ – a point which seeks to evade any responsibility for the broader context which brought about said crash (this after all was the LP leader who in 2007 went to the state with a manifesto promising yet more tax cuts… not at all populist that I presume).

But there’s another point which has to be pushed back against…

The Trostkyist’s last engagement with a bin charges campaign ended in privatisation.

This implies (and he’s not the first to do so either) that privatisation occurred on foot of said protests, was indeed a result of same. That’s simply incorrect. And it’s interesting too that a party that he belongs to was in government after that privatisation and did nothing to reverse it.

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1. FergusD - July 17, 2017

Minor point I suppose but twerps like Rabbitte don’t understand, or even try to understand, what Trotsky’s theory of “Permenant Revolution” was about, but rather hear the term and assume it is some kind of call for constant chaos.

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GW - July 17, 2017

Well Marx used the frenchified term ‘permant’ in 1850 to indicate permanent in the sense of ‘irreversible, decided’. Possibly because all the alternative German synonyms also, as in English, can mean ‘continuous’. And so in terms of stability the opposite sense to that which el Conejo implies.

I can’t answer for Trotsky, never having read the relevant texts, but it does seem a rather misleading term for ‘non-stageist and internationalist’, as far as I understand it. But perhaps the goateed one chose it for its dramatic and rhetorical effects.

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GW - July 17, 2017

permant -> permanent. More coffee needed.

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FergusD - July 19, 2017

The goatee bearded one was writing about revolution in semi-developed countries, especially Russia. Russia hadn’t really had a democratic-bourgeois revolution. Trotsky argued that if one kicked off it would be in a situation where there was a small but advanced proletariat and a weak bourgeoisie. What would be the fate of such a revolution? Trotsky argued the weak bourgeoisie could not push through a bourgeois-democratic revolution and maintain it, they needed the proletariat who would have to push it further (Make it “permanent”?) or it would fall back into reaction. There were lots of debates about this amongst the Bolsheviks prior to October 1917, eventually the revolution did push beyond the bourgeois democratic.

My take on it anyway.

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GW - July 19, 2017

That’s my understanding as well – ‘permanent’ in the sense that the backsliding bourgeoisie can’t reverse it. I think the insistence on international revolution is also part of the theory, but as I say, I’m no expert.

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WorldbyStorm - July 19, 2017

In all honesty that makes a fair bit of sense to me, that concept of permanent revolution as articulated by Trotsky. I’m less convinced by the idea of socialism in one country being a crock albeit with the caveat it has to be a bloody big country with continental spread (and I also wonder given the track records of the 20s on how easy it is to export revolutions elsewhere and whether there was a sort of attitude that the ‘real’ revolution should have occurred in Germany or even Britain).

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2. irishelectionliterature - July 17, 2017

Such nonsense again from Rabbitte. The worst part is that some people are swallowing this claptrap.
Saw a few articles in the broadsheets recently where the author was treating it like an exclusive scoop that the SWP were linked to PBP and Solidarity linked to The Socialist Party!
I suppose I’m preaching to the crowd here but the lack of knowledge of the far left from people who claim to be political experts is astounding.

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3. Fergal - July 17, 2017

Rabbitte belongs to what Tariq Ali calls the ‘exterme centre’. Of course, people have the right to protest as long as the extreme centre is happy with it, otherwise the extreme centrists will descend in to hysterics along with their fellow travellers in the mainstream media(plenty of them!)

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4. GW - July 17, 2017

Ineffective protest -> Good

Effective protest -> Bad

The first garlands the liberality of capitalist ‘democracy’; the second type is to be prevented, or, if in any way successful, calumniated.

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EWI - July 17, 2017

Bang on the nail. This is exactly what they want – ineffectual protests which don’t move affairs a jot.

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irishelectionliterature - July 17, 2017

Labour seem to have moved to being a party of photocalls rather than a party of protests.

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5. sonofstan - July 17, 2017

Striking works because it fucks up someone’s day, but whose day would the participants of the Women’s Strike affect? Would the event, billed as “A Day Without Women,” amount to anything more than a day without adjuncts and freelance graphic designers? As an adjunct myself, I believe my job is important, but if I’m being perfectly honest, no one notices when I don’t show up for one day of work. It costs no money, and it doesn’t plunge the university into chaos, and without cost or chaos, a strike is an impotent performance.

Good piece from Amber A’Lee Frost on the kind of protest that achieves nothing beyond validating the egos of those taking part

https://thebaffler.com/outbursts/all-worked-up-nowhere-to-go-frost

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Michael Carley - July 17, 2017

Can’t think of a union that has to resolve that issue, no sir.

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6. Alibaba - July 17, 2017

We used to get clever observations on the social order and putdowns from Pat Rabbitte, despite the fact that he had long since declined to challenge it. Being mired now in exasperation, and pondering on the gloomy failure of his political undertakings, he spouts his despair. 

Hence, ‘the machinations [which ones?] of the Trotskyist hard left [not the far left] would have little impact were it not for the new populist environment [the one which spans the political spectrum eh?] which is the legacy of the crash [the same one Labour made the “difficult decisions” about’.  I mean, really? And the glaring omission to mention the many other non-Trotskyists who seized the moment with the water charges movement too. Rabbitte is maliciously monkeying about.

And as for privatisation, it is worthwhile noting this item:

‘But such confusion is to be expected when former government ministers claim Bord Gáis wasn’t privatised. On a recent RTÉ radio show, I asked former minister for communications, energy and natural resources, Pat Rabbitte, about this and he responded: “We didn’t privatise Bord Gáis, we retained the networks in public ownership.”
The truth is the main parts of Bord Gáis — its actual name and the retail energy supply business which provides and charges the gas and electricity for its 750,000 customers, along with the Whitegate Power Plant in Co Cork which produces power for 400,000 homes — were sold to a private company. That company is the international energy corporation, Centrica, which also owns British Gas.’

http://www.irishexaminer.com/viewpoints/analysis/why-privatising-state-assets-is-not-in-the-public-interest-308850.html

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WorldbyStorm - July 17, 2017

It’s interesting you should use the word despair. It was the 2011 election where I really felt that was the case with him. Interviewed on one of those follow the candidates around programmes on RTE he was talking about poverty and it was strange the terms he used, almost along the lines of ‘well it will always be with us, all we can do is ameliorate it a little’ etc. And I thought, this is a man who on some fundamental level has been defeated, or allowed himself to be. And that’s bizarre because so many others who never had the opportunities he had to engage with the system and to make even a small effort to change it from within – or the smaller number who have had that opportunity and taken it as best they can – haven’t been defeated.

There’s a bit of a mania about Trotskyists in the LP (a function of the Militant days, and the LPs reduced circumstances too as those who once could be loftily dismissed are now a much much more immediate threat). Though as you rightly say it’s also a reductionism re the breadth of the movement and what of all those who aren’t SP or SWP too who are involved (by the by would you think Daly and Collins still are Trotskyists? They’ve moved some distance but I often wonder from their own perspective how far).

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jc - July 17, 2017

Rabbitte was in the Officials in the days when Militant was in the LP. Isn’t it more likely that — at least in his case — the obsession with Trotskyism as a term of abuse is an echo of the anathemas of that other subculture?

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WorldbyStorm - July 17, 2017

Absolutely but it’s very pronounced even in people who never came close to WP or DL who are in the LP that I’ve met. A huge antipathy to Trotskyism due to the 80s (and of course some of that is also due to the parallel issues in the BLP). Just on PR I know ex DL and WP folk who are convinced that the controls were set for destination LP as early as the late 80s in his case ( and he was of course in the LP before he jouned OSF). Very bitter about it they were too.

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Alibaba - July 17, 2017

There are many Trotskyists who have long since abandoned adherence to his politics. Equally there are many who were politically inspired by Trotsky and his endeavours, including Daly and Collins. But politically they have both moved to the radical left mileau and the word ‘socialism’ doesn’t get mention in their electoral literature. Quite clearly Trotsky’s politics needed re-elaboration with the passage of time. That said, some of those who carry the mantle of this politics often used it in a way not strictly intended. For example, the highjacking of protests, signature collecting for recruiting purposes, playing it safe to keep elected positions on trade unions or steering commitees, frontism mania and entryism that turns out to be exercises in raids into other parties. No wonder organisations like the SWP are known for having its “revolving door”. Subjectively revolutionary comrades leave it in their droves.

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Pasionario - July 19, 2017

Rabbitte and Harris’s Trot-bashing is straight out of Soviet propaganda. It’s the only thing they retain from their previous lives.

But the fact that the radical Irish left is dominated by Trotskyists or ex-Trotskyists is a bit of an anomaly, which would be an interesting subject for less partisan commentary. I mean, Dublin West had TWO Trotskyist TDs at one point. Surely a world first! Mainstream journalists always compare Solidarity/PBP to Corbyn, but we know how far off the mark that is.

Perhaps it’s because Ireland never had a big Communist party of the continental variety, which left Trotskyists with a bit more room to breathe. Meanwhile, our Labour Party has always been right-leaning, and often downright reactionary. Even during the Blair years, Corbyn and McDonnell clung on whereas they had no equivalents in Irish Labour. Then, I suppose you’d have to credit dedicated individuals like Higgins and Daly.

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Alibaba - July 19, 2017

Pat Rabbitte and Eoghan Harris’s good turn of phrase and considerable experience in the ranks gets them much media exposure. The tend to foam at the mouth in newspaper columns damning the left, particularly the Trotskyist left, as ex-Stalinists like to do.

As to why the radical Irish left is dominated by Trotskyists or ex-Trotskyists is a good question. The strength of social democratic parties in Europe made little place for far-left leaners. The weakness of the Communist Party here and the total discrediting in late twentieth century of its model of socialism rendered it redundant. They don’t deign to raise their heads in any elections in the knowledge that they would be gain derisory results. Nor would I diminish the excellent and sincere efforts of many Trotskyists who have long since embedded themselves in struggles.

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WorldbyStorm - July 19, 2017

Yet there’s a flip side to this which is that the WP was most successful at precisely the point the USSR was going into terminal decline and very discredited elsewhere. Though there’s another thought that the WP was astute at keeping some clear distance between it and Moscow (and I remember MarkP once being surprised at how WP publications he was reading in the Left Archive from the early 1980s didn’t cleave to a simple pro-Moscow line). And a further thought being that the WP, Solidarity, PBP, SF were/have been/are assiduous constituency politicians and rightly so. Perhaps it is that the Irish political context rewards those including excellent Trotskyists who get involved and as you say Alibaba, embed themselves in struggles. There’s a lesson there.

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sonofstan - July 19, 2017

” Corbyn and McDonnell clung on whereas they had no equivalents in Irish Labour”

They clung on because there’s no viable future outside the LP in the UK thanks to FPTP. If there was PR, Militant would have taken and possibly held seats in Liverpool and Coventry in the 80s in their own right and, who knows? expanded from there. The Irish ‘far’ left gets oxygen denied to similar movements elsewhere.

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WorldbyStorm - July 19, 2017

Tommy Broughan kind of sort of, definitely an old style or new (!) social democrat.

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7. FergusD - July 19, 2017

I expect it is a bit like Marx saying he wasn’t a Marxist, Trotsky would never have called himself a “Trotskyist”, or worse, for some reason, “Trotskyite”. He would just seen himself as a communist.

It is depressing how many “Trotskyist” groups have developed into mechanical sort of bible bashers, and then died. Others seem to have become left reformists – but then, to be fair, it is hard to be revolutionary when there is no sign of a revolution. What do you do? I kinda went to sleep for 20 or more years! JC (Corbyn not Jesus) woke me up I suppose, maybe all is not lost, even mild social democracy is a stimulus to engage.

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WorldbyStorm - July 19, 2017

In a reactionary context even relatively mild social democracy, if it is pushing leftwards and not just content to stop where it is, has a transformational potential. Nor revolutionary, but transformational. Perhaps.

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