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Left Archive: Build the SLP through united mass action: An internal SLP Discussion document, Socialist Labour Party, 1978 June 3, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.


To download the above please click on the following link. slp-internal-disc-doc-1978.pdf

Please click here to go the Left Archive.

This month we intend to post up documents from the Socialist Labour Party which existed in the late 1970s and was a serious attempt to construct a further left platform party. As noted previously…

The Socialist Labour Party (SLP) was formed in 1977 and led by Matt Merrigan (Dublin Secretary of the ATGWU) and Noël Browne (then an independent TD).

A number of left groups joined the party as tendencies. These included:

Workers Alliance for Action – formed by members of Irish Workers’ Group, who left in 1979;
Republican Socialist Tendency – formed by members of Movement for a Socialist Republic, who left in 1979;
Socialist Workers’ Tendency – formed by members of Socialist Workers’ Movement, who left in 1980.

The party ran in the 1981 general election, with Noël Browne re-elected as a TD. However, with many members having left at this stage, it was dissolved in 1982.

Many thanks to the person who forwarded this to the Archive, a Socialist Labour Party internal discussion document which in 14 pages engages with issues facing the SLP, most notably, The National Question, The Women’s Movement & The Left and finally The Economic Crisis, Trade Unions and Politics.

As the Introduction notes:

We have written this document as a contribution taking place before and during the conference. It is not a tendency document nor is it intended for voting on; although we will be arguing in support of the general lines of the 3 main policy documents voted for by the NEC.

And it also notes:

The first task of any Socialist party is to look reality hard in the face. We must be modest about ourselves. We are a small party, we have a few hundred members. We all want to build a mass Socialist party. The question that face us is how this is to be done.

And it argues for ‘non-exclusiveness’ in mass campaigns, asserting that ’this is the key to building’ those campaigns and ’to break down the sectarianism which has always paralysed the Irish left’.

There’s much else including a critique of Dr. Noel Browne’s views on Socialism and Republicanism where they suggest that ‘[he] seriously underestimates the role of British Imperialism in Ireland and consequently is confused about republicanism’ and also argue ‘that Socialists must have a positive approach to the women’s movement, that we must recognise its independence, that our women members should actively participate in it, and that w should seek to integrate feminist conceptions into our theory and practice, always remembering that without the liberation of women we will not achieve true socialism’.

They also note ‘we do not have a section on agriculture. This is not a reflection on our disinterest but of our ignorance. The Irish left is of course almost entirely centred in towns and knows very little about the countryside; indeed it is usually steeped in urban chauvinism…. We believe the starting point must be around the question – what programme would be capable fo drawing the most oppressed layers in the countryside – the small farmers, the agricultural labourers, the rural unemployed and underemployed – into struggle alongside the urban working class’.

Please note: If files have been posted for or to other online archives previously we would appreciate if we could be informed of that. We wish to credit same where applicable or simply provide links.


1. Alibaba - June 4, 2019

This interests me. The SLP was a great precedent for politically advanced activists keying-in to a radical climate. That experience counts for much.

It should be remembered that such a party can fail, as the SLP did, where differences were often extreme, among those that prioritised the local elections and declined to uphold the mandating of TDs, support the H Block prisoners or support for abortion rights, to name a few of the issues.

I yearn for a new party (or realistically some new broad-based left formation) that will be built on a principled political basis. This being said, it means there must be one pre-condition: participants must rule out coalition government with right-wing parties.

Ideally, other conditions would also prevail. Membership would consist of people from very different political orientations. If it is going to have an inclusive internal political life, it needs a regime that has to tolerate difference and the best regime is facilitated, in my view, by permitting tendencies.

Be wary of any veto for any group or leader and there should be a balanced approach when highly controversial issues come up which need to be discussed over time. This means everybody knuckling down to democracy. When decisions are taken on policy or specific actions, it requires disciplined unity in its implementation by all members.

It must also be driven by the commitment to maximise unity and co-operative actions around the issues we agree on. It would preferably have recognisable branding and participants would fly the flag literally and metaphorically. People want an identifiable organisation, not a hodgepodge of oppositionists. This recipe for a politically stronger Left could season its current marginalisation. Make sense? Call me a chronic optimist: better that than a pessimist crank.


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