A party that used to be left-wing and represent working people, the Irish Labour Party has catapulted to the right in the last 30 years or so, like all of the old social-democratic parties. Today they make occasional noises about “protecting the most vulnerable in our society” but to all real, practical intents and purposes they are practically the same as the right-wing parties. After a roasting from voters in the local elections, they’re going into a tailspin, flailing around for a new leader.
Commentators are talking about a “left-right divide” opening up for the first time in Irish politics. Labour is on the wrong side of this. If it stays on the right, it will continue to wither because if you want a right-wing party, why bother with a crap, double-speaking one? Meanwhile, if it tries to struggle onto the left side of the divide, it will only fall into the chasm between the two.
Its luminaries don’t seem to understand any of this. Some really think that Joan Burton can save the party by “explaining” to people what Labour is doing in government. The problem is, people know damn well what they’re doing: providing a feast for the rich and powerful while trying (and mostly failing) to grab a few crumbs for everyone else.
Others talk about trying to make the people “feel” the recovery. There’s a reason why the recovery has been, and I predict might be more so in the future, more radicalising than the crisis. When people were suffering from cuts and unemployment and new taxes, they could at least say to themselves, “Well, this is a crisis, it’ll be over soon.” But Labour think the recovery has a long way to run. Well, substantially, this is the recovery. As the fella asks in the movie, has it ever occurred to them that this is as good as it gets? Most working-class people are not feeling the recovery because, well, there is no substantial recovery for working-class people. The whole strategy for the last 6 years has been directed at producing a recovery for the rich. You can’t get the working class to “feel” the recovery without the aid of a hypnotist.
The “jobs recovery” has been based on emigration, low pay and free-labour “internships”. The fiscal “recovery” has been based on giving everything to the banks and bondholders, and taking everything from the people.
To finish this brief look at the Labour Party crisis, I want to relate that Labour TD Dominic Hannigan had this to contribute to the debate:
“This is about brand recovery… If we want to survive, we have to re-engage with our customer base.”
(Sunday Business Post, June 29th)
And that is precisely why they are unlikely to survive.