My experiences with Joe Higgins.
Along with Anto Macaba I recruited Joe Higgins to socialism and Militant/SP. He would later go on to refuse to support my right to appeal against my expulsion from that organization. He put his own position in that organization over principle.
Editors Note: The Socialist Party website has a statement reproduced in the first comment below, saying that Joe is NOT retiring from political activity but will NOT stand in the next general election
Joe Higgins announces retirement.
I see that Joe Higgins SP has announced his coming retirement. I have known Joe Higgins since the early 1970's when Anton MacCaba met him at UCD and Anton and I then went on to recruit him to socialism and to the then Militant later SP. It was I who had the discussions with him about going to work full time for the Militant. We had many trips and adventures together intervening on strikes and in the labor movement in general. For a time we were friends.
I have followed his work ever over the years. I have been impressed and supported the struggles that he has conducted on behalf of workers in Ireland and internationally. The working class owes Joe Higgins. He has never sold them out.
But of course life is complicated. I later came into disagreement with the MILITANT, then part of the CWI. In spite of the fact that I was the first member of that organization in Southern Ireland and the first full time member in Ireland as a whole I was expelled and slandered. The CWI still totally falsely claims that I embezzled money from it. I have had major struggles with the different currents in the labor movement, the social democrats, the Communist Party, the different left groups, but never has it been alleged that I was financially dishonest -- except once. And that was by the Militant/CWI. In its internal life the Militant/CWI is fundamentally flawed and even corrupt.
The constitution of the CWI says that if a member is expelled they have the right to appeal against their expulsion. I attempted to appeal against my expulsion. i was not allowed to do so. I still remember to this day standing outside the North Star Hotel in Dublin trying to get into the Militant conference there to appeal. The CWI leadership in London phoned and told the Irish section not to let me in. This was only one of a number of occasions when I was not allowed my right to appeal.
I then went to my friend Joe Higgins. I said Joe I am not asking you to support my political positions. All I am asking is that you support my democratic right to appeal against my expulsion. This conversation took place in Buswells Hotel Dublin. Joe gathered his papers and with eyes blazing he stated: "I will do no such thing. You got yourself into this mess yourself you can get out of it yourself." And with that he stormed out of the hotel. This was not a principled position.
Of course if he had supported my right to appeal the leadership of the CWI would have driven him out. They were desperate at that time to hold their fragmenting forces together as the secret faction of Taaffe and Walsh fought the secret faction of Grant and Woods.
So as Joe retires let us remember that he fought the good fight on the picket lines and in the labor movement. But that when it came to taking a principled stand within his own organization and standing up for what was right and just he capitulated to the leadership of that organization who had his future in his hands. He chose the future that they offered him rather than taking a principled stand. This is a stain on Joe Higgin's record. It also is a blow to the CWI to which he has given his adult life to build. This false unprincipled method of internal life, of selling out principles for positions is now more deeply embedded in the CWI and this will rise in the future to create major problems for that organization and it will lead to the wasting of another generation of youth that it will recruit.