Posts Tagged ‘Socialist Party’

Merrion Square West, behind the Dáil, was filled with people. The closer you got to the stage, the thicker the bodies were pressed. To get around the corner to the other side of the square meant squeezing through a very slow human traffic jam. After trying, mainly to get a look at what kind of crowd was on Merrion Square South, I changed lanes and turned back. In front of me was a sea of people and a rich array of flags and placards.

DSCF0823

A guy later described to me how he stood in front of the stage and rang his friend, who was down near Trinity. Neither one, from where they stood, could see any end of the crowds. Many people stuck down on Nassau Street couldn’t even get to Merrion Square.

DSCF0872

The Guards and the media said that there were 30,000 people out on December 10th. We need to bury that myth quickly and securely. To be sure, 30,000 is a huge number of protestors. The student protest in 2010 was 30-40,000, and the one in 2011 was 20,000. Both were gigantic, awe-inspiring turnouts.

But there is absolutely no way that December 10th saw any fewer than 50,000, and to hear that there were 100,000 out would not surprise me at all. In other words December 10th was at the same point on the Richter Scale of protest as the historic October 11th and November 1st days that shook the government into making big concessions, cutting the water tax and delaying the bills.

The size of the demo is an extremely important question. The government’s U-turn was supposed to have satisfied everyone and ended the upheaval. December 10th proves that that has not happened. People realise that if we start paying, then the bills will sooner or later be hiked up and privatisation will be only a matter of time.

DSCF0806

So what were the Guards and the media at, saying there were only 30,000 there? It’s obvious: trying to spread the impression that the government’s u-turn has worked and that the protest movement has been whittled down. “The middle ground lost interest after our colossal u-turn,” as one Labour member put it.

Another coping mechanism for the establishment is to claim that the crowd on December 10th, big and all as it was, doesn’t really “count” because apparently it was mostly composed of Sinn Féin supporters and socialists. “There is a lot of Sinn Féin and hard left branding,” one Fine Gael member pretended to observe.

DSCF0829

I say pretended because I saw the demo with my own eyes and I know that’s nonsense. The “______ Says No” contingents were more numerous than Sinn Féin, the Socialist Party or People Before Profit. Most placards were home-made and improvised with clever (or weird) individual messages. The photos I took completely bear this out. But the Irish Times tells us that “[The] View from the stage was dominated by SF flags, socialist groups and unions.” Unless there was a huge concentration of such flags just in front of the stage, this is fiction.

DSCF0812

In any case, what are they saying? That Sinn Féin and the left can summon tens of thousands onto the streets at will whenever they want to have a “counterfeit” protest? Were these tens of thousands of people present at the last demonstrations (which the journalist Fiach Kelly has forgotten the dates of) or were those demonstrations composed only of “real”, “ordinary”, “reasonable” people? Surely if SF, the Socialist Party and PBP can now count their active members and close supporters in the tens of thousands, then that deserves to be a headline all on its own?

DSCF0817

This “supporters” myth, the legend of the counterfeit protest, is beneath contempt in terms of self-delusion. Maybe Fiach Kelly wants to believe it himself or maybe he spent more time behind Garda lines with coalition hacks than he did looking at the protest he was supposed to be reporting on.

DSCF0825

It was an awesome turnout, the mood was brilliant and the people marching were not all Shinners and lefties who sprang out of the ground. But the mood on the ground was not really matched from the stage.

DSCF0828

Place yourself in the scene. We all gather at 1pm, all fired up and anxious to hear some politics; at the highest pitch of enthusiasm Brendan Ogle, who is MCing, tells us a band is going to play. The band is OK, but we’re not here for a concert. And you can see people start to move in the first twenty seconds after the first note is played. In the crowd of tens of thousands, hundreds are moving away from the stage. Lines of people are trickling away. And you think: why the hell did they put on a band? Why do they always do this?

DSCF0857

A bit of music and poetry and spoken-word art can be good on a protest. But there was far too much of it, and sometimes it didn’t even seem to be political. Every time the music or the poetry started up, lines of people trickling back down to Nassau Street would appear amid the crowd. People went down to O’Connell Bridge to block traffic or to Kildare Street to have an aul push-and-shove with the cops.

DSCF0870

Speakers had come all the way from Detroit and from Greece to speak. By the time they got up there, 4 or 5pm, only 30% of the crowd was left, at the very most. This was still a sizeable crowd, but it was a sad remnant of the surging throng that had been there earlier. What a sickening waste. Next time, Right2Water need to front-load the politics and keep the poetry and songs for later on, or maybe for a short interlude in the middle of the speeches.

DSCF0861

The second point of criticism: when are Right2Water, Brendan Ogle and People Before Profit going to cop on and start talking about non-payment? Is the alliance with Sinn Féin more important than the key tactic that can bring down the water charges? Non-payment should be front-and-centre. We need to maximise the numbers who don’t pay. That is the key struggle right now.

Advertisements

I’m going to start this post with a pretty long quote. It’s shocking and scary and makes me very angry but also very resolute.

A CEO of a major agri-business corporation said the following to author Andrew Harvey in the early 1990s. You can find this quote on Progressive Commentary Hour podcasts or in Harvey’s book “The Hope” which is on Google books.

Rio [climate change summit] will accomplish absolutely nothing because you do-gooders are so naive about the real world. Most of you that I have met truly believe that if the CEOs – like me for instance – really knew what harm their corporate policies were doing, they would rend their Armani suits, fling out their Rolex-wreathed arms, burst into tears and change. This is madness, it shows how little you dare to know about what is really going on. And how can you even begin to be effective until you understand what you’re up against?

Let me tell you what you’re up against. You’re up against people like me. I know exactly what my company is doing, and what devastation it is causing to thousands of lives. I should know, I’m running it. I know and I do not care. I’ve decided I want a grand, gold-plated lifestyle and the perks and jets and houses that go with it, and I will do anything – bend the law, have people removed, bribe local government officials, you name it, to get what I want. I know, too, that none of my shareholders care a rat’s ass what I do or how I do it, providing I keep them swimming in cash.

[…]

The [left-wing activists] that I meet are frankly bliss-bunnies, about as useful in the real world as a rubber ball would be in a war.”

[…]

This blissful bunnyhood of seekers and the offensive self-righteousness of activists make it very easy for people like me to control the world. I know too, by the way, that the dark forces I play with are also playing with me. […] I’m willing to pay that price in return for the pleasure of being able to afford this restaurant. In return for being able to ring up the President of the United States on my personal phone in front of houseguests just to impress them. Am I getting through to you?

 

I’ve done a couple of posts on how billionaires justify having more wealth than they could possibly ever use. It’s important to argue hard and refute this nonsense because it goes out into the world backed up by a lot of resources and it convinces a hell of a lot of people.

But now and then, as above, the wealthy and powerful let their guard down and are totally frank about what’s going on in the world and what role they play. Our arguments against capitalism are not directed at the capitalists themselves because there is a general tendency among groups of people to believe what it suits them to believe.

The Problems

The human race faces environmental destruction that could lead to extinction. The vast majority of us as a species suffer poverty and exploitation. Almost a billion are hungry. Imperialist wars plague the world. The most highly-developed parts of the world are in an economic crisis which seems absolutely intractable. As a species we have the material and intellectual means to solve all of these problems. However, we live in a society where the rich control the lion’s share of the wealth and invest only on the basis of profit. A state which is supposed to lessen the bad effects of this in fact more often helps the rich.

This rich class is, in general, aware of its crimes and is indifferent.

The Solution

We need to work towards imposing the democratic control of workers over the land, factories, banks, transport systems, natural resources and governments. If we fail to do this and then to plan the economy toward ecologically friendly ends, nothing resembling civilisation is likely to survive the 21st century.

How We Get There

Many have already realized the need for socialism. But among them there are many that say that the “old” ideas of “Vanguardism” are

A poster for Syriza, the Greek anti-capitalist broad coalition party

A poster for Syriza, the Greek broad anti-capitalist alliance

outdated, failed examples of “Toy Bolshevism”, and that we need alternative structures for socialist organisations. It is an interesting debate and worth engaging with. Syriza, a broad coalition of left-wing forces that has gathered huge support in Greece, is often held up as a model.

http://www.irishleftreview.org/2013/01/21/crucible-irish-engagement-greek-crisis-greek-left/

Broad “pluralistic”, “meeting-place-of-ideas” kind of parties are nothing new, nothing objectionable to anybody on the left, and – most importantly – nothing you can summon up on the spot! This side of the argument, that there should be a broad mass left workers’ party that may not have the perfect programme, but embraces lots of workers and young people, is not part of any argument. Practically everyone accepts that these things should exist and would be beneficial.

The other side of the argument is the part I want to dispute. This is the assertion that relatively small, centralized, highly-organised and politically homogeneous revolutionary parties should not exist.

There is a variance of positions on this ranging from objection to certain features of revolutionary parties (http://www.irishleftreview.org/2013/01/09/structure-democracy-irish-left-call-discussion/) to total exasperation at those parties and a barely-expressed wish that they would dissolve, pool their members and resources, and form a Syriza that everyone can enjoy.

In Ireland this question is particularly keen because the only two discernibly socialist and significantly-sized parties (http://socialistparty.net/ http://www.swp.ie) see themselves as revolutionary vanguard parties in the Leninist sense. To others on the left this is a constant source of irritation…

http://spiritofcontradiction.eu/rowan-duffy/2012/10/25/why-i-joined-the-ula

…because they have no organisation of their own and unfortunately enjoy very little success in trying to build one. Which is of course not really the fault of the Socialist Party or Socialist Workers’ Party!

The Socialist Workers’ Party in Britain

The result of all this is that, particularly after the fragmentation of the British Socialist Workers’ Party, a lot of people are giving a lot of stick to the idea of a revolutionary party. “Why,” I’ve heard them ask, “Would you organise a party along the lines of an organisation set up a hundred years ago in a semi-feudal autocracy?”

As if the reason for the SWP’s downfall was too much Bolshevism! Most of its members are very admirable but the fact is the SWP has always had a consistently poor analysis and an inability to admit its own mistakes. Its strategy and tactics have always been dishonest and sectarian, with a proliferation of false banners (People Before Profit, Right to Work, Students Against Fascism, €nough!, Unite the Resistance in the last few years in Ireland alone). The Comrade Delta affair was disgusting in its own right but was a lightning-rod for members’ grievances on many other issues and with the party generally. (http://sovietgoonboy.wordpress.com/  http://www.leninology.com/)

Given a long period of Capitalist stability and the constant pressure toward opportunism, sometimes overcompensated for by a cosmetic ultra-left turn, you can see why organisations go bad. In the case of the Healyites, you can see why they go spectacularly bad.  None of this is specific to a revolutionary party.

“Toy Bolshevism”

What are the essential elements of the criticism of the revolutionary party sometimes expressed with the term “Toy Bolshevism”?

  1. A fear of centralisation leading to authoritarianism, in the vein of the right-wing historians who would, if they could, examine Lenin’s shite for the seeds of Stalinism.
  2. A view that revolutionary parties have been impotent and unsuccessful in achieving any significant victory for workers. Apart from Russia of course. And, closer to home, the poll tax. And, even closer, the water charges. And Gama. And the household tax…
  3. A view that the activity of revolutionary parties seems pointless. That instead of the incremental bread-and-butter work of politicising, fundraising, supporting campaigns and strikes, demonstrations, stall and paper sales, there should be… Here falls a strange silence. Or else plans about productive enterprises to finance a mass workers’ party and a “left media” to spread its message. Which of course would be wonderful.
  4. The idea that the members of a revolutionary party have a grandiose sense of their own importance, that they imagine themselves storming Leinster House in the short term, that they count on “an insurrectionary movement from Mars” falling into
    Communist insurrection on Mars? I think there's a videogame where that happens

    Revolution on Mars? I think there’s a videogame where that happens

    their laps. In fact such parties are aware of their own weaknesses organisationally and numerically and in terms of their influence on the class. They are nowhere near the finished product, anymore than society as a whole is ripe for insurrection. But they are in the process of fashioning the necessary party and see it as a very urgent task. This is why they recruit, sell papers, educate, maintain their independence, defend their programme and participate in other forms of what independent lefts often judge to be “sectarian” activity.

Often, however, the objections seem to point to a longing for a more laid-back kind of party. One that is less centralized and which demands less challenging activity of its members, and which would be more broadly appealing politically. One which could be all this but still make a massive difference to the situation now if not sooner!

Problems of a “less revolutionary” revolutionary party

In many countries worker militancy has been sapped, traditional organisations such as trade unions and labour parties destroyed or won over by the right. The only forces to survive the onslaught of capitalist triumphalism in the ‘90s and ‘00s were the revolutionary parties. This tells us two things.

Firstly, it illustrates the weaknesses of more broad-left parties, which are useful in an upswing of labour struggle but which change not just in size but in substance in periods of demoralisation. This if nothing else is an argument for a solid, organised revolutionary party.

Secondly, it explains why people on the left have such strong objections to revolutionary parties. The difficulty of building new mass workers’ parties, which the so-called “Toy Bolsheviks” have always given their all to, has provoked a certain sourness. “Here we are five years into the crisis, and still no significant left alternative!”

People often fail to see that this is a consequence of matters such as the smashing of the British trade unions under Thatcher in the UK, and twenty years of social partnership in Ireland. There being no serious avenues of struggle and a defeatist leadership, demoralisation has been a strong element of the mood in Ireland. But a misdiagnosis of the problem sees people on the Irish left claim that if the Trots loosened up a little and did X, Y and Z, they would grow massively. But hang on. Making your politics more chilled-out and becoming more flaky, disorganised and unable to act in a concerted manner – how would this help to further the cause of workers?

An old-school analogy

The ancient Greek generals knew that a small number of soldiers organised and trained to fight in a phalanx, a tight formation of spears and shields, could see off an enemy many times its size. It was an unstoppable collective machine. Its power was in its organisation, training and weaponry. If a general could somehow gather unstoppably huge numbers of people, in some exceptional circumstance, of course he could win battles without the need for training or strong organisation. But such an army, once panicked and routed, is hard to rally, will be cut down by the enemy in an everyone-for-themselves rout, and leave only traumatised and depressed survivors and many who surrender. A phalanx suffers during a rout but is on the whole solid, and is prepared to weather adversity, withdraw tactically, and remain intact for the next advance.

Basically what we need is a couple of syntagmas in Syntagma Square

Basically what we need is a couple of syntagmas in Syntagma Square

In the same way a centralised, revolutionary party is capable of punching above its weight in society. It makes its decisions democratically with full freedom of debate, but once the decision is made it works in a united fashion to achieve its goals. It has a full-time apparatus to allow it to intervene effectively. I don’t pretend that there are any revolutionary parties in the world today that function in such a well-organised fashion but parties that aspire to the Leninist idea of the revolutionary party have strong elements of the phalanx about them and are constantly trying their hardest to grow in numbers and to improve in organisation.

Conclusion

Remember the quote I posted at the start of this article. “Am I getting through to you?” asks the CEO. He certainly got through to me. Faced with the horrors wrought on the world by capitalism and the extremely powerful interests that keep it that way, military analogies such as the above are absolutely appropriate and are in no way grandiose.

A party which has a flaky approach to politics and organisation will not impress the working class or give the impression that it cares or understands keenly enough. Such a party is not up to the everyday challenges of the class struggle because it cannot intervene effectively. Nor is it up to the task of challenging the likes of our CEO who simply laugh at ineffectual “bliss-bunnies”.

The key task for anyone who wants to change the world is to build organisations – thinking machines with maximum discussion on all subjects from everyday campaigning to philosophy, and at the same time fighting machines to advance the power and confidence of ordinary people and to provide leadership at crucial moments. We are of no use on our own, each of us. The benchmark for your success as a socialist activist should be how well you build, qualitatively and quantitatively, a revolutionary organisation.

 

The danger of “bureaucratisation” is constantly hyped by the critics of the revolutionary party and grossly inappropriate references to Stalinism are frequently made. But even if this danger were to begin with historically relevant and then magnified a thousand times greater than they paint it, it would not be as great a danger as the danger that every one of us might someday die without having dispossessed and humiliated that CEO and fixed the horrors he and his class are responsible for. Read over the quote again. It might almost have been fabricated by some frustrated activist who wanted to provoke complacent leftists into action. “Am I getting through to you?”

English: Signs in Main Street, Strabane, Count...

Image via Wikipedia

Plenty of Sinn Féin members are calling for non-payment of the household charge while the leadership discourages it, pretending that a mass boycott is a “personal” matter. Even as they condemn the charge and condemn austerity, they summon up the image of the non-payer being left high and dry by a hapless campaign and an apathetic public. There are two causes for their adoption of this position.

The first is their institutional memory of the Rent and Rates Strike in the 1970s, which was a failure. Alongside this is the memory of the Bin Tax campaign, a more recent and relevant defeat. The Rent and Rates Strike was doomed to failure from the start due to the fact that it was not an economic protest of the working class, but a political strike necessarily based only in the Catholic community. A part of the failure of the Bin Tax campaign, meanwhile, may be left at the feet of Sinn Féin themselves for the similarly double-mouthed stance they adopted at that time. Moreover, the emphasis on blockades as a tactic and the fine economic weather are features of that campaign which will be absent from the struggle in the New Year.

The second reason is far more substantial, and for it the above reason is often deployed as a cover. Sinn Féin as an organisation is hostile to mass participation in politics. Aonghus O’ Snodaigh speaks of the “irresponsibility” of calling for non-payment and talk about people being “left in the lurch, facing fines and imprisonment”. There is a genuine risk of that happening to people. However, if Sinn Féin were to support the campaign- to dedicate and organize their public reps, staff, resources and activists- the chances of any non-payer suffering would wither away to nothing. The Sinn Féiners are the ones leaving people in the lurch.

With something like the Household Charge, as with the Poll Tax and the Water Charges, half-measures are worse than nothing. 10% non-payment just means 10% of the people being victimized.  When Sinn Féin hang back and talk about people broken by fines, they make what is to some extent a self-fulfilling prophecy- in not admitting for a moment that it has every chance of success while “personally” refusing to pay, the aim and the outcome is individual martyrdom, not victory. Martyrdom won’t save anyone a cent, and it won’t defeat austerity.

Any notion that they are being “responsible” by sabotaging this campaign must be dismissed. Sinn Féin’s position is a betrayal. Their support was not expected or hoped for, and nor is it necessary. The campaign still has every chance of success. At this point, before it has even begun, the campaign is miles ahead of where the anti-water charges campaign was at an equivalent stage. We have a huge campaign and have had massive meetings. We have a rake of TDs. We have huge support. This betrayal will have deeper consequences for Sinn Féin than it will for the Household Charge.

There were people left high and dry by badly-organized or defeated campaigns in the past. But if working-class communities standing up and defeating the state machine was an easy and painless process, then it would happen far more often. Sinn Féin, like everyone, know that sticking your head above the parapet invites enemy fire. It’s common sense. But the fallout from a defeat seems to be in the front of their minds, which suggests that they think the campaign will fail.

This is the curious point, because if defeat is inevitable in the communities (which it definitely isn’t!) then it’s hard to see why Sinn Féin are bothering to oppose the charge. Can we imagine for a moment that they think they might defeat it in the Dáil? Perhaps they have a plan to mobilize enormous demonstrations against the charge as an alternative to non-payment. Both of these scenarios are equally ridiculous and without foundation.

The answer to this political riddle must be that Sinn Féin are, in this instance as in others, performing the rituals of resistance, while failing actually to resist. This is the behaviour of a party that has a more realistic perspective than the Labour Party, even if it is equally cynical. If the Labour Party is displaying bovine idiocy, Sinn Féin can be credited with brute cunning. As an organisation, their political manoeuvres signify not the intention of defeating austerity, but the intention of harvesting votes by ineffectually opposing austerity- and only in ways that are “responsible”.

Those who call for non-payment, on the other hand, mostly see TDs only as an auxiliary to politics in the streets and in communities. In Sinn Féin’s implicit position of electoralism, by contrast, it is easy to see a future trajectory: steady growth, junior coalition partner status, utter sellout, then back, not quite to Square One, but to Two or Three, never to advance beyond Five. So Sinn Féin would oppose austerity just so that one day they might impose it- that theirs would be a policy of austerity is certain, considering their role as instruments of the Tories in Northern Ireland. This trajectory, however, would apply to “ordinary” times, assuming a return to prosperity and stability.

That would be a very big assumption. It will be increasingly necessary in coming years for communities to organize against cutbacks. There will be no radical-electoralist constituency for Sinn Féin to appeal to- no body of voters willing to let a TD say to them that civil disobedience is “irresponsible” at a time when it is a dreadful necessity. This shunning of the Household Charge campaign will be their first step on the road to irrelevance. Maybe after a few further steps they will begin to consider sweeping policy changes- for better or for worse- as a way of saving themselves.

Comment-surfing can be good craic. Look at any political song on Youtube, especially rebel chunes, and you can follow word-for-word these endless, vitriolic arguments that range through every register from friendly political pub banter to

@MrMickroach what are you on about you fool my family have been on this land for more than 2000 years ya fool this country is ours and that goes for the 6 county’s. learn something ya dumb bastard and stop checking wiki links to try find the right thing to say ya sap. your knowledge of this country is like your knowledge of women you 40 year old virgin.
burnthebrits 1 week ago

If you take ten minutes to follow these things they can become compelling- as heated and as dramatic as any TV miniseries. Epic battles are played out. Characters emerge (MrMickroach featured, on this thread, as a thoroughly despicable character. His comeuppance here was sweet, made bitter and overshadowed by the sheer viciousness of his vanquisher burnthebrits). The endless repetition of boneheaded arguments and swift descent into insult-slinging chaos can be deliciously farcical, but after a few comments you just can’t take it anymore. Besides, we all have better things to be doing.

But those who write

you sir are a fucking idiot. if America didnt help the english out in ww1 and ww2 you fucking pussy’s would belong to germany. if we didnt send troops to france in ww1 the english would have been slaughtered..how is that too late? you are a fucking tool… so stop commenting on peoples posts because you dont know a single thing asshole.
uptheIRA93 2 weeks ago

soon graduate to indymedia.

There is on that website a serious article by a long-time left activist written in the bitter days of the wind-down of the bin tax struggle. The article concerned political and tactical differences and accusations of unprincipled manoeuvring. The 104 comments on the article read with all the bitterness of defeated forces- the bin tax was through, and blame was flying around.

The anonymity the internet gives you makes such a comment thread the perfect arena for such a bitter little squabble, for all the grievances and grudges to come out in force. It’s scary. The fact that all these comments seem to have been added in the space of one week in April 2004 gives you some idea of the viciousness of it all. The experience is shocking and depressing.

Anger is the best cure for this kind of depression. One comment seen by chance (no, I didn’t care to read them all) cured me:

Meanwhile in the sewers…
by Brian of Nazareth! Luan Aib 26, 2004 23:06

The Judaean People’s front (AKA the SP) are on their way to kidnapp Caesar’s wife in protest at the hated bin tax…

On their way they encounter the People’s front of Judaea (aka the SWP)…

“Brothers, surely we should fight together against the common enemy”!!!

“THE JUDAEAN PEOPLE’S FRONT”!!

“NO, the ROMANS!!!!”

Christ, it’s so laughable how the far left fits into this mould perfectly. Let’s not fight the tax, let’s fight each other! Perfectly sensible!

;-D LMAO

Unless the author of that comment was, in fact, one of the pythons, s/he gets no credit for quoting that film at tedious length. If it was, somehow, one of the pythons, I would tell him all the same to mind his own business.

The shrinking world of the information age gives people the ability to mumble from sidelines however distant and be heard as if they were roaring right beside you. When some bored spoilt teenager (or wannabe teenager) posts an ignorant comment between wanks, it’s very easy for a serious, committed working-class activist to overreact. The internet builds bridges between people, but we should beware of trolls lurking beneath them.

All the same, the “Life of Brian” references are worth responding to- not because of their value as arguments, but because of how often we hear them.

Why are the Socialist Party and Socialist Workers’ Party different organizations? Why were a bunch of anti-bin tax activists arguing so bitterly over bin taxes? Is it because individuals at the top are hypersensitive and power-hungry?

No. The opposite is true.

It is very easy for people without principles to come together. Look at the major political parties in any country. Careerist machines based on unity in strength for careerist or naive politicians- the strongest principles of unity (from party whips to outright bribery) and the weakest principles of politics and democratic accountability. Unity is harder the more you value your principles.

The major questions at stake in the article were as follows: whether solidarity action in estates where non-collection was not being imposed was advisable; whether “broad” alliances of the left should be formed; to whom elected representatives of an organization should be accountable; what are the best forms of democratic organization. Whatever side of the debate you take, these are all questions of vital importance. Life of Brian references are definitely not applicable. We’re not knifing each other in the sewers beneath Pontius Pilate’s house; we’re thrashing out vital issues.

Some seem to think that the Left has no right to debate or difference. Socialist Party, Socialist Workers’ Party, Workers’ Party, Workers’ Solidarity Movement. Haha, confusing names. The same people generally seem to take for granted debate and difference of an equally acrimonious character between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail. The names of the two major parties in the USA, the Democrats and the Republicans, are nothing but the Greek and Latin phrases for the exact same thing- something neither party represents in any case. SP and SWP certainly have more to disagree with than these careerist right-wing electoral machines, who manufacture a debate whenever it’s election time, and clap each other on the back when the votes are counted- like it’s a soccer match between friends. Further, the evidence of many a coalition, especially the present one, tells us that SP and SWP definitely have more between them than Fine Gael and Labour.

Still, now that the stakes are high the Left has pulled together. Proposals for greater unity on the left didn’t get so far in the mid-00s. Socialist Party wasn’t on board. This and other conflicts, together with defeat in the bin tax struggle, meant  a lot of people’s blood pressure skyrocketed. Now, on the basis of a huge crisis of international capitalism, the right moment has come. We launched the United Left Alliance and three months later we had 5 TDs. If we’d just blindly launched ourselves into alliance in 2004, it would have been a waste of energy and a jettisoning of principles.

The spiteful, petty and power-hungry caricature does apply to some on the left. We’ve all run into those people at one time or another…

However, that caricature does not represent the divisions and the arguments that exist.

We can reasonably expect that these arguments be conducted in a fraternal way that isn’t personalized. Of course, this is a serious struggle, not a debating chamber or a parliament, and the blood can really boil sometimes. Sometimes it’s even necessary to do and say things you wouldn’t if you didn’t have to. However, manageable issues can be made into deal-breakers by little snubs and insults. Everyone in the world must have some experience of this, political or otherwise.

One final point: message boards and comment threads aren’t a suitable arena for discussion on serious politics. All you get is a few dozen people sitting at their computer screens unable to see each others’ faces, blasted and broken down into pure spite, with a few trolls thrown in.

Having said that, comment away on this blog post…  but @MrMickroach, Brian of Nazareth, burnthebrits and uptheIRA93, if you got something to say, say it to their face…

(wow, there are at least 93 “uptheIRA” profiles on Youtube)