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category national | elections / politics | opinion/analysis author Wednesday June 24, 2015 16:37author by Pat Waine - water charges Campaign Report this post to the editors

The road ahead for Irish Left

The very clear lessons on coalition with the right that now must be re learned by the left in Ireland all over again. The failure so far to rule out a coalition involving Fianna Fail, Labour and Fianna Gael is a failure to learn the lessons of historical compromises of the past. The left in Ireland must set out to build a real alternative to the narrative of austerity propagated by the capitalist parties in Ireland and supported by Labour.

The Left and the movement for a radical realignment

There needs to be a debate and discussion of where the left are going and what principles we use to guide us.
The left in Ireland is a bit different to most European countries but similar overall. In most countries there exists a principled hard left and a social democratic party that has all but collapsed. The hard left Grouping in Ireland embracing AAA and PBP and left independents occupy the political space formerly accepted by all the left which included Labour, Workers Party and independent Lefts and most republican groups etc.

All these groupings do now or would have formerly been in agreement on
- The need to defend and widen state industry,
- Support workers rights,
- Push forward the social agenda including womens rights , minority rights and a separation of Church and State
- They would have all formerly supported a fair progressive taxation system where services were free at the point of use but supported by that taxation system.
- All Would also have supported a wealth tax.

I don’t think we need to dwell on the point that Labour have abandoned nearly all those principled positions. The weakness of the left overall has led to a position now that only very small groupings around the hard left and independents still hold to these principled position.

The Collapse of the economy and the massive bailout has assisted a broader movement developing. This broader movement has manifested itself in a nationalist social movement without any clear direction. This movement around water charges has brought many more activists into the left political field for the first time.
The initiative by the Right to Water Unions indicates for the first time in a long time some of the unions starting to address a force to the left of Labour. If this is successful in pulling all the strands together in a principled way on a clear programme we could see it develope at a speed not seen in the country since its foundation.

However a call for unity by Right to Water Unions for the sake of unity is not enough . It in fact reminds me of calls by the likes of Dick Spring in the 80’s/90’s for people to abandon Labours position on all their programme and not rule out coalition with the parties of the right. The argument was that Labour needed to be in government to achieve any of their programme. History has shown how false that position was. It ended with Labour cutting welfare, sacking SNA’s, introducing Jobsbridge cheap labour schemes and massive inequality. If Labour had stood by their principles in the 80s they could have built a huge left social movement but instead went for coalition with the right.

That is why any new initiative must rule out coalition with the right and that debate must be honest broad and based on mutual respect. Most importantly it must be debated within all the water charges campaigns and all campaigns should be brought on board and represented by the people they nominate.

If these two things do not happen all campaigners in my view will pay a heavy price for it

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