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Left Unity and Disunity… a slight return December 1, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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IEL mentioned last week that there are rumours of a merger between RISE and PBP. The Phoenix had a piece on this noting that:

People Before Profit and RISE have worked closely since the election. Joint campaigns and statements, a united front urging the Green Party to resist the siren call of coalition in June right through an alternative budget produced in October. Discussions on a formal merger are ongoing for some time, with a draft document nearing final agreement in the new year.

As the Phoenix notes this leaves just one Solidarity TD in the Dáil, but it also notes that given the increasing popularity of Sinn Féin a range of seats in smaller parties of the left, further and otherwise, are likely under threat.

The Phoenix point to the fact that many of these parties tend to vote, hardly surprisingly, along similar lines to SF in the Dáil…

Much in common which saw the far-left enjoy the spoils from SF’s surpluses in January. Next time will not be so cordial.

So it makes sense for alliances to be forged between the various groups. How far and how deep these alliances prove to be is another matter.

Comments»

1. Aonrud ⚘ - December 1, 2020

I wonder what sort of structure a merged entity would have? From the outside, I’d imagine they’d have to formalise structures in both PBP and RISE, and role of the SWN and so on.

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WorldbyStorm - December 1, 2020

Yeah, that’s quite a lot to do.

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2. Joe C. - December 2, 2020

With all respect to those involved, RISE can’t have more than 20 active members. Even the brand on Facebook has been dropped, replaced with ‘Paul Murphy TD’. I can’t imagine that bureaucratic structures are the issue.

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pettyburgess - December 2, 2020
WorldbyStorm - December 2, 2020

🙂 Just re RISE, whether in alliance or as part of PBP difficult not to see them as a genuinely positive development. I hope whatever route they take they’ll hold on to as much of their identity as possible.

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Colm B - December 2, 2020

But this raises the perennial problem of internal democracy which was one of the reasons RISE members left the SP. But now they are proposing to enter an even less democratic organisation. At least the SP have debates, annual conference etc. I stand to be corrected but Ive never heard of this with PBP.

In any case PBP is still run by a the same small
SW leadership circle which is virtually irreplaceable.

It’s understandable that people just gloss over this in the interests of left unity but experience shows it will always rear its head again. Im all for working with others on the left but it’s another thing entirely to become part of an undemocratic organisation. I hope I’m wrong but I think RISE are making a serious mistake.

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E - December 3, 2020

You might be interested in hearing that at this years SWN conference, the infamous slate system of electing the Political Committee was gotten rid of.. direct vote on proposed members.. and with some well known members removed. A step in the right direction I think democracy wise and I welcome RISE merging with PBP.

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Colm B - December 3, 2020

Well E, that iscertainly good news, I hope it’s a sign of things to come.

Do you know how PBP leadership is chosen and if they have an annual conference? Genuine question.

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WorldbyStorm - December 3, 2020

CB I’d share your critique to quite some degree but it’s precisely because RISE envisage this that I’m a bit more optimistic. Radical socialists can make a difference, it’s not guaranteed but worth the effort.

Btw that’s great re slate system. Trying to recall was that used on the qt in the WP back in the day, can you recall Colm? In any event just a bad idea and moving beyond it a real positive.

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GearóidGaillimh - December 3, 2020

Brian O’Cathail’s article on the slate system in the first issue of Rupture might be of interest.

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pettyburgess - December 3, 2020

Colm, PBP has a delegate AGM (ie conference) which elects its steering committee, deals with resolutions etc. It also has delegate National Council meetings every few months, which also deal with branch motions. It is not unstructured in the way it was in its earlier days as not much more than an electoral name for the SWP.

It is a far livelier and less homogenous organisation than the SP in terms of its internal life and you will find its members expressing conflicting views publicly in a way that simply was not true of the old SWP and is not of the present SP. That is not, it should be noted, precisely identical with “democracy” as a concept and I’ll leave it to people with more in depth knowledge of the group to talk about the degree to which rank and file views ultimately shape or do not shape decision making.

The question I have for you is if you can envisage a path to a mass, semi-mass, or even just substantial party of the radical left in Ireland that does not have PBP playing a central role in the process?

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Joe - December 3, 2020

Btw that’s great re slate system. Trying to recall was that used on the qt in the WP back in the day, can you recall Colm? In any event just a bad idea and moving beyond it a real positive.

I was a branch delegate at a couple of WP Ard Fheiseanna in the late eighties. We discussed the nominations for the Ard Chomhairle at a branch meeting and delegates were delegated to vote for some specific nominees but also had a free hand to vote for others (basically because there were twenty something places at least on the AC and we didn’t know enough about most nominees to decide one way or the other).
However, I was just an ordinary member of the WP and not a member of any faction. Knowing what I half-know now I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some factions operated some kind of slate system. More likely I’d guess in the years immediately before the WP/DL split. Others on here may know more.

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WorldbyStorm - December 3, 2020

That was my memory too, being at the back of the old hall in the RDS and people getting very exercised about whether x or y was sound or not, etc. I can’t recall did I even vote, or was I deputised when someone left the hall for a break? 🙂 Democracy.

BTW, my gran and I were great friends and she went along a few times to the WP Ard Fheis. Curiously she was quite the fan of Gerry Adams in later years – thought he had a lovely smile. She travelled a long way from Birmingham, Britain.

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Colm B - December 3, 2020

The WP never had a slate system in the way some of the Trotskyist organisations had i.e where the leadership put forward a slate and in practice no one else does and then it’s a vote for or against the leadership, which effectively meant the leadership re-elects itself continuously.

A democratic slate system is like what the LCR/NPA in France operated where factions put forward slates and they get seats proportionate to the votes they get (I think).

The WP never had a slate system to elect the Ard Comhairle.- delegates voted for individuals – can’t remember if it was by PR or just simple majority. But in practice this was shaped by two processes, one of which, as Joe mentioned, involved branches mandating delegates to vote for certain individuals. Nothing undemocratic about that, though my memory of it was that it was partly influenced by the hidden factions – key members would propose ” vote for her, don’t vote for him etc.”.

However, the real catch might have been a behind the scenes procedure when the votes were being counted. I heard it from two different members, one of whom was a senior member of both the party and Group B. That was simply that the counting was partly cooked – they just made sure that some undesirable candidates did not get elected and made sure some army people got elected regardless of the real numbers. Whether it’s true, how long it lasted etc I don’t know.

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Colm B - December 3, 2020

Pettyburgess, it sounds like it’s moving in a positive direction.

As for what I would envisage re a mass party, I’m not based in Ireland so it’s hard for me to judge. I’m guessing that the reality is that, at this point, it would be very unlikely that a new party would succeed without the involvement of both PBP and SP/Solidarity.

Whether that would be a good thing or not is another question. I know for sure that a party dominated by undemocratic groupings is a recipe for disaster but a party dominated by groupings evolving in a more open democratic direction would be a different ball game. That’s putting aside any ideological differences, since I am neither a Trotskyist/Leninist though I have no problems working with people from that tradition, in fact every political formation I’ve ever worked in contained members who saw the hems lives as Leninist of some variety.
The grouping in Ireland which I identify most closely with is Independent Left as they combine revolutionary socialism with a strong commitment to internal democracy.

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pettyburgess - December 3, 2020

The WP appears to have had a hybrid between (semi militarised behind the scenes) traditional Republican structures and Communist Party style “democratic centralist” ones. It didn’t have a slate, but as noted above that isn’t the only way to “guide” internal elections to acceptable outcomes. It did have the CP style big committee – subcommittee structure, etc.

The Communist Parties had all adopted the slate or recommended panel system by the early 30s. It was the final piece of the jigsaw in the Stalinist reconception of the party as monolith. In some places relatively late forming Trotskyist splinters may have taken it with them from the CPs but it was not a general feature of early Trotskyism. The British RCP, which is the ultimate political ancestor of a lot of anglophone Trotskyism adopted it in the mid 40s. It is an extremely bad system unless your goal is to allow a leadership to perpetuate itself.

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alanmyler - December 3, 2020

I’d say the WP CEC elections these days are all above board. The pre Ard Fheis branch meetings, where the delegates are mandated to vote, are lively enough in my experience. Once so mandated the delegates vote in secret of course so who’s to say they stick to what the branch decided? The reason I say it’s pretty much all above board is that at the last few AFs I was at there were a few surprises where people didn’t make the cut and were later co-opted onto the AF. That mechanism is a bit dodgy though, I’m not sure how it’s completely democratic. Anyway judging from the informal feedback on the goings on at CEC meetings it’s clear enough nobody has stacked the membership to get an easy ride, although they may have tried and failed of course.

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3. roddy - December 3, 2020

We used to joke about “the meeting before the meeting”!

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WorldbyStorm - December 3, 2020

It’s like when Bernadette McAliskey turned up to the famous IRSP meeting and asked to meet the other crew – and almost no-one left the room.

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Joe - December 3, 2020

Very good. Hadn’t heard that one before.

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EWI - December 3, 2020

It’s like when Bernadette McAliskey turned up to the famous IRSP meeting and asked to meet the other crew – and almost no-one left the room.

Meet the ‘Wolfe Tone Memorial Committee’:

https://www.militaryarchives.ie/collections/online-collections/bureau-of-military-history-1913-1921/bmhsearch/search.jsp?querystr=%22wolfe+tone+memorial%22

Had bank accounts, its meetings reported in the press, sent letters to public officials, the works (and was actually the IRB Supreme Council).

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Michael Carley - December 3, 2020

And of course you know, nobody ever got to talk to the IRA. You talked to people who had ‘an insight’ – I have to get this phrase right – you forget it. The people who had ‘an insight’ into the thinking of the IRA. I remember having a conversation once with Seamus Costello during my short but very educational membership of the IRSP (Irish Republican Socialist Party) and there was a similar kind of conversation where, in absolute frustration, I said to Seamus: Seamus, please do me a favour. Would you go to that men’s toilet there and while you’re in there and the door closed behind you would you have a conversation with the Chief of Staff of the INLA? (Irish National Liberation Army) (all laugh) And when you come out would you tell me what he said so that I can understand where I stand in this organisation? (all laugh) And he just looked at me, as he often did and said things like: Close the door behind you, Bernadette, on the way out.

https://rfe123.org/bernadette-devlin-mcaliskey-field-day-seamus-deane-honorary-lecture-transcript-a-terrible-state-of-chassis-30-september-2016

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roddy - December 3, 2020

Revisionist bullshit from Bernie and at one time I would have followed her to hell and back.She was so outraged about Seamus Costello that she gave the oration at INLA chief of staff Dominic McGlinchey’s funeral.Her public reaction to the IRA ceasefire which she claims to have been demanding for years was”the good guys lost”.She’s so “radical” now that she found time in recent years to address meetings of the Redmondite SDLP and is fawned over by elements of the media she once denounced as “curs and prostitutes”.

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