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Socialist Party reply to SWP on issues of left co-operation and new workers party

category national | politics / elections | opinion/analysis author Wednesday November 04, 2009 20:46author by Michael Murphy - Socialist Party Report this post to the editors

This is a response to the SWP's reply which appeared on thier website in late August. Their material was in reply to previous Socialist Party material on the issues of left co-operation, new mass workers party and left election slates. The Socialist Party believes our reply is an accuarte assesment of the discussions that took place among groups on the left in the run in to the recent local elections and outlines our views on many of the issues facing the left. We believe there should be a left slate for the next general election and we hope our reply can assist that process.

Left co-operation & the building of a new mass party of the working class:

The Socialist Party (SP) welcomes the contribution of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) to the debate on left co-operation and the building of a new mass party of the working class.

Socialist Party proposals for local election slate rejected

The Socialist Party has attempted to push this discussion on over the last year particularly in the run in to the recent local elections. We were disappointed that our very positive and workable proposals for a left slate were rejected by the SWP, People before Profit Alliance (PBPA) and the Tipperary Workers and Unemployed Action Group (TWUAG), particularly as none of these groups put forward alternative proposals for discussion nor engaged in a serious discussion on our proposals.

The Socialist Party proposed a local election left slate that could have numbered up to 30 serious candidates from a number of different groups. We argued that if there were to be a left slate it must be made up of credible candidates with a campaigning record in their community but also that political criteria apply to ensure that the slate be made up of genuine left forces that are committed to building a left alternative.

Opposition to right wing coalitions, double taxation service charges including water, bin or recycling charges were also critical parts of the programme. These points were made to ensure the left integrity of any slate and to cut across people seeking to opportunistically manipulate an electoral alliance which could damage the reputation and standing of forces on the left who have worked hard to gain political authority and respect among the working class.

General Election Left Slate

The Socialist Party is in favour of a genuine left slate for the forthcoming general election. However, the problems that thwarted the attempts to pull together a local election slate on key issues such as the political character and record of those who would make up a slate have not gone away. The reality is that the discussions around a left slate were brought to a shuddering halt by a coalition of the SWP, PBPA and TWUAG without any real discussion on the key issues. It would have been far better that open and honest discussions were held on these issues including the issue of a structure to oversee the slate – however it never reached that stage. The comments by members of the SWP in the aftermath of the local elections referring to Labour and Sinn Fein as being on the left are wrong when clearly both parties are fully committed to implementing capitalist market policies. Clearly the fact that many working class people vote for these parties means that they should be taken up skilfully, but they must be taken up in an honest fashion. Socialists have a responsibility to tell working class people the truth about these parties, their policies and the role they have and will play.
Recent media reports about a new left/environmental alliance made up of the PBPA and a variety of former Labour and Green councillors including Chris O’Leary in Cork, Catherine Connolly in Galway or Declan Bree in Sligo to name a few illustrates that the concerns raised by the Socialist Party in relation to the orientation of the SWP and their loose approach to political programme are being borne out.

Unfortunately the statement written by the SWP not only fails to deal in any real way with the points we raised, rather it unfortunately twists arguments and ignores key points raised by us.
According to the SWP statement “the main stumbling block [to a slate], however was a peculiar mechanism that was proposed for dealing with the issue of credibility of candidates”...”The SP argued that the issues of credibility be decided by a joint committee where there had to be ‘unanimous agreement’ by all concerned on who was credible”

According to their statement they found this proposal unworkable on two grounds:

1. That unanimity between left organisations implied a veto over other organisations candidates.
2. All candidates put forward should be on the slate irrespective of the agreement of other forces.

The statement goes on to state that the mechanism proposed by the Socialist Party was “unworkable because none of the other left groups agreed to it” and they proposed that “the issue of credibility, therefore needs to be solved through different methods – probably through a little more trust and some left wing common sense”.

These quotes give the false impression that there were exhaustive discussions over the Socialist Party proposals and then the groups involved including the SWP came to the conclusion that our proposals were unworkable. The truth is that our proposals were rejected without any real discussion in an ill tempered meeting which lasted approximately half an hour. We can only conclude that the SWP walked away without any real engagement or discussion in relation to our approach to a slate as further confirmation that the SWP are not interested in a genuinely democratic alliance and once again are not prepared to work alongside others in a structure that they do not control. This behaviour either indicates that the SWP had a predetermined view of what the SP position was and therefore there was no need for discussion or that they didn’t want the Socialist Party involved in any slate hence they brought the process to a premature end.

The SWP quote from our proposals in relation to a democratic structure without quoting the reasons advocated such a structure.

The issue of trust is critical here but unfortunately it is a fact that there isn’t trust among groups on the left and in particular there is significant distrust of the role of the SWP over many years. No matter how one might wish to wipe the slate clean and pretend that the incidents that caused this distrust didn’t happen, it would be an act of political folly on behalf of the Socialist Party to do so. We enter into arrangements with our eyes wide open not wearing a blindfold which the SWP may wish us to do.

We raised important political points to assist with an open and honest discussion so that we could discuss past mistakes not for academic purpose, or point scoring, but to ensure we try to prevent them happening again. It is unfortunate that the SWP both in the discussions and in their reply have not been open to dealing with any of the fundamental issues raised by the Socialist Party.

Democratic Structure Necessary

The SP proposed that there should be a democratic structure to oversee any local election slate. All groups would have been entitled to put forward representatives to this structure. The number of representatives would be subject to discussion. This structure should take decisions on such matters as the political programme of the slate, and the makeup of the slate, as well as the number of candidates.

The SWP has in our opinion a history of playing a destructive role in campaigns and initiatives in which they have been involved. They have often packed meetings and manoeuvred to try push through their proposals in an undemocratic way which has alienated many genuine people. Our sister organisation in Britain was left with no option but to leave the Socialist Alliance in Britain, an alliance we initiated. The SWP used their greater force of numbers to vote down proposals from us for a democratic and federal structure for the alliance. Our proposals were deliberately designed to prevent the domination of the alliance of any one political group. Under the stewardship of the SWP, the Socialist Alliance then disintegrated.

In 2004 there was an attempt to stand candidates as part of an anti bin tax slate for the local elections in Dublin proposed by the Socialist Party. The SWP insisted on putting a number of people on the slate who had not built a campaign in their area and had no place on a slate alongside people who had been to prison on the issue and had slogged over years building a campaign and in particular played a crucial role in extending the campaign during its high point in September/October 2003. The Socialist Party proposal would have resulted in a slate of people who had played an important role in that struggle and it would have amounted to a slate of about 20 candidates. The Socialist Party would not give in to the demands of the SWP. We proposed an alternative slate which was then voted down in part by the SWP and the opportunity was lost.

We also saw this approach earlier this year where the SWP attempted to set up a campaign against the social partnership deal. They organised a conference in Dublin supposedly to discuss the establishment of a trade union rank and file network and didn’t invite the Socialist Party, individual members of the Socialist Party or many other prominent activists who have important positions in the trade union movement. Then at the event, which was inevitably dominated by the SWP, they initiated a campaign against the social partnership deal, which was undemocratic and served to consciously exclude genuine activists. A genuine approach to discuss the agenda, speakers or even building a campaign against the partnership deal would seek to include as many activists in the trade union movement irrespective of party affiliation.

We argued for a consensus not a veto. We felt it important that the groups involved in any slate should have serious discussion to agree the makeup of a slate and try come to such a consensus. It is not the method of the Socialist Party to summarily rule people out. We wanted to have a discussion about who would participate on the slate and what candidates were being proposed by each group. Unfortunately the groups involved refused to even discuss candidates and while we believe certain criteria keeps a slate politically credible, we also understand that in discussions and negotiations there will be some give and take. Our approach was not to veto but for serious discussion.

Far from our approach being undemocratic, we were arguing for a democratic approach. The SWP’s position was yes we can be part of an alliance but you have no right to raise points about candidates and each group should be free to do whatever it sees fit in standing candidates. This is hardly a serious or democratic approach to negotiations.

The actions of the SWP in rejecting our proposals were a bad mistake and set back genuine attempts to bring about a slate. The whole process of building a left alliance could be much further progressed at this stage. It’s an incredible somersault that the SWP have spent the months since they rejected our proposals casting the Socialist Party as sectarian and not interested in building a left alliance or a genuine election slate. Their reply has again contained these falsehoods. Their reply is an attempt to hide the fact that last December they refused to even seriously discuss the establishment of a strong slate of candidates.

It is for these reasons among others that the issue of trust is so important for the Socialist Party. To that end, we believe a democratic structure such as this is not only desirable but necessary. We believe all major decisions taken must be on the basis of serious and thorough discussion and consensus reached at a structure particularly by the groups representing the majority of candidates on the slate.

These points in relation to the SWP’s role were in our proposals yet there is an absence of any comment on these points which was also a feature of the discussions held in the last year.

Political Vacuum on the Left

The discussion around left co-operation and representation for working class people is a particularly important and relevant discussion because of the gaping political vacuum in Irish society. The economic crisis is radicalising many people. The spate of industrial disputes and in particular the rash of militant occupations at Waterford Glass, Thomas Cooke and others illustrates a very angry mood among many workers. The massive defeat of Fianna Fail and the Greens at the polls in June is a further indication of the seething anger that exists in society.
The Local and European election successes of the SP coupled with the gains made by the PBPA, TWUAG as well as gains for independent lefts and the Workers Party is a positive step forward for working class representation in Ireland. They indicate that despite the shift to Labour and Fine Gael, in many areas socialists could buck that trend and make some good gains. These gains by the left also give an indication of the more general potential that will emerge particularly when Labour enters into a government which will be a right wing government, which could occur in the next number of months.

The shift to the right of Labour and Sinn Fein has helped open up the space for the emergence of a genuine left alternative to the establishment parties. The Socialist Party has advocated for a number of years the need for a new party to represent working class people. We have argued for such a party in Ireland and internationally and our sister parties have participated in many initiatives such as Syriza in Greece, Die Linke in Germany and Psol in Brazil to name a few.

We don’t believe however that we can wish such a party into existence or that it will drop from the sky. This has been a central point of difference between us and others on the left, particularly the SWP. Many individuals and groups on the left will play an important role in the development of such a party but we believe the involvement of a substantial number of fresh and new activists in the communities, workplaces and the trade unions is critical to the establishment of such a party. These activists will and are emerging from the struggles of the working class against this vicious government. However it is the opinion of the Socialist Party that these activists haven’t yet emerged in sufficient numbers to justify the launch of a permanently structured left alliance nor the launching of a new party for working people at this time, so bringing the existing left together to form an alliance at this stage would not, in our view, be of major significance. The Socialist Party is optimistic about the emergence of such fresh forces but we are also realistic enough to know they haven’t yet emerged and have no wish to overstate the situation. We believe that the launching of an alliance of candidates for the general election is the most appropriate thing that could be done right now.

In contrast the SWP in an attempt to justify their complete turnabout on the issue of standing in elections overstate the positives and understate the difficulties in rebuilding the workers' movement. For years now they have tended to declare every few months a new historic turning point that poses the potential for fundamental change in society. This serves to mis-educate people and potentially demoralise activists. Richard Boyd Barrett and Kieran Allen both leading SWP members speaking at recent demonstrations have used the mass movements of the so called Orange Revolution in Georgia a number of years ago and the revolution that led to the collapse of the Berlin Wall as an example of what can be achieved here! The PBPA also organised a “ring around the Dail” which was to take place every Wednesday until Nama was defeated, which simply wasn’t going to happen. This lasted one week when only 30 people turned up and that was the end of the “ring around the Dail”!

Reformist direction of the SWP

It is important that those who claim to be revolutionary socialists play a role raising the consciousness of the working class on political issues.

The SWP, in their reply to the Socialist Party, advocates a “radical left alliance” with a number of proposals including the following:

“The basis of such an alliance should be the minimum that revolutionary socialists can accept and the maximum that activists coming from a left reformist background can accept. Specifically, it should be built on a left programme which includes such demands as that the rich must be made to pay for the economic crisis; that Ireland’s natural resources must be nationalised; that there can be no coalition or alliance with right wing parties."

Of course it is necessary to take account of workers' consciousness in formulating a programme and demands. However as socialists we skilfully raise our programme. If a conference or meeting were organised to initiate a new party or alliance the Socialist Party would argue strongly for the new alliance to adopt a socialist program as the best programme against cuts, new taxes etc but crucially linking these day to day issues with the need to fight capitalism. If we were not successful we would not walk away as long as we could stand over the programme that was adopted. We would however, continue to fight and argue for our ideas inside the new party or alliance and hopefully win people to our ideas.

The attitude of the SWP is to not even raise the issue of socialism but to argue for the building of an alliance on a reformist programme. This is an important point which is not about words but about raising and fighting for socialist ideas – the reality is the SWP have lowered their banner dramatically in recent years. In Britain and to some extent in Ireland they have engaged in a form of political liquidationism where they throw themselves into broader political formations such as the Scottish Socialist Party, Respect Coalition, or even the People before Profit Alliance at the expense of building a revolutionary socialist organisation.

The SWP are in favour from the outset of forming an unprincipled non socialist bloc because they feel that people will not support socialist ideas. The victory of Joe Higgins in the euro elections and the support for SP councillors who stood on a socialist platform illustrates what can be achieved. What is the logic in trying to fill the vacuum that has emerged from the capitulation of Labour to the capitalist market by launching from the start a new reformist party? They also propose a mock democracy, where groups can hold their own views but when with operating as part of the alliance must remain within the confines of a reformist programme. How is that a contribution to the redevelopment a socialist outlook or consciousness? It is vital that socialist policies, which are the only solution to the crisis, are advocated as broadly as possible as soon as possible.

Would it mean that election material relating to candidates for the alliance for example, Joe Higgins or Clare Daly would have to be modified or censored by the alliance? This approach would be much more restrictive for the Socialist Party than when our members worked inside the Labour Party.

Then, particularly through our influence in Labour Youth, we were able to challenge in principle and in public the reformist coalitionism of the Labour leadership. We were able to forward a transitional programme for socialist change and helped popularise socialist ideas.

The SWP talk of united fronts. We favour a united front approach – this means uniting with others on the left on an issue and fight but remain free to raise and outline one's differences publicly. Strike together but march separately. What the SWP proposes is an unprincipled alliance with the liquidation of a genuine socialist programme for the false idea that capitalism can be reformed for the benefit of working class people.

Labour, Sinn Fein and the Left

Richard Boyd Barrett, PBPA councillor and leading member of the SWP speaking on The Sunday Supplement programme on Today FM on 6 September this year in a discussion on the left stated that “the left needs to grow up”. He then went on to state in a somewhat ambiguous fashion that if one took the sentiment behind the votes [in the local and European elections] for the Independent left, the Labour Party, Sinn Fein and people who previously voted for the Green Party that this combined vote was almost a majority sentiment for different type of politics with a different set of priorities and was the sort of Left alternative he would like to see emerge! He didn’t qualify the remarks or make any reference to how people will be disillusioned with Labour or Sinn Fein if they get into power.

Speaking on Morning Ireland, Monday 8 June, Richard Boyd Barrett, when asked who he will work with on councils, he said: "Certainly with independent left candidates but also I think with the Labour Party, if the Labour Party is willing to break from its coalition deals with Fine Gael. To my mind, there is no doubt the people who vote for Labour are looking for an alternative to Fianna Fail and Fine Gael and I think the natural alliance is one between parties like Labour and the independent left candidates who done very well in the elections. (Brief pause) So I just hope that Labour will look in that direction rather than doing deals with Fine Gael, as they have done in the past because it’s very clear Fine Gael intend to implement policies that are going to be as adverse for working people, they're talking about more severe spending cuts than even Fianna Fail have been implementing, and so I think it’s time for a new alliance of the left."

There is nothing in the latter quote in particular which undermines illusions in Labour. In fact the quote sows illusions in the Labour Party. He gives the wrong illusion that somehow Labour could break with their policy of coalition with Fine Gael and that somehow Labour can become a real reflection of working class opinion.

The Labour Party and Sinn Fein have no role to play in rebuilding the left that does not mean there are not good people in both organisations and would break with their parties at some time in the future and play a role in the building of a new left party.

In the absence of a very strong left force in society, much of ordinary people’s anger at government policies was reflected in growth for Sinn Fein and now in particular Labour – it is critical that socialists are clear on the political positions of these parties, understanding why people vote for them but not give any hostages to fortune by including them on the left or sowing further illusions in them.

As a justification for a “soft” position of the SWP on Labour, they use the example of the Socialist Party councillors on Fingal County Council who voted on a tactical basis for the Labour Party for Mayor and deputy Mayor in June of this year.

Fingal County council has 24 councillors broken down as follows, LP 9 – FG 6 – FF 4 – SP 3 – IND 2 – one of the “independents” is simply independent Fianna Fail. The Socialist Party and the other independent councillor on the council supported Labour and by doing so it meant that the traditional right wing parties of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael were kept out of the chair in a year that will see the beginning of the development plan process. Given the havoc that has been heaped on the Fingal region by developer led planning in the last 20 years it is significant that the traditional right wing parties who support the property developers are kept in a minority on the council.

The decision by the Socialist Party to vote for Labour for Mayor is not a political endorsement of Labour nor did we engage in auction politics for a share of the spoils. This was a purely tactical decision. The Socialist Party will still vote against the estimates in December because of the ongoing presence of bin charges and the likelihood of cuts in the council budgets and we will continue to be in opposition to Labour on many issues. This decision is clearly motivated to keep the right wing out but it can also help expose Labour on many issues in the eyes of many people.

The decision to pursue an alliance with people like Chris O’Leary or Catherine Connolly raises very important points about the character of any election slate.

Chris O’Leary was a member of the Green Party until he left earlier this year. He is now an independent councillor on Cork City Council. He supported the Green Party leadership negotiating a programme for government with Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats and remained in support while the education cuts and cuts to old age pensioner medial cards were being carried out! He is quoted in the Sunday Times article which covered the potential for a new “left/environment” alliance that he would see it as a “movement to fill the political vacuum left by the Greens” after the Greens abandoned what used to be their “core policies” – this quotes wouldn’t indicate that he is moving in a left or socialist direction. It raises serious questions over the type of alliance that is being sought.

Catherine Connolly was a member of the Labour Party until 2007 when she left because she couldn’t get a nomination for the general election. Catherine Connolly served as Mayor of Galway City Council in 2004 as a Labour member and won this with the help of Fine Gael votes. She voted for the council budget in 2008 which contained cuts and after the local elections this year which saw her re-elected she entered into negotiations about who would control Galway City Council which included former Progressive Democrat councillors. Clearly she was prepared to do a deal with these people.

While it would be a mistake to take a rigid and fixed view of people based on past political positions as people can change and political positions can evolve, unless there has been a public renouncement of past positions or mistakes recognised, then judging someone on their past political record is entirely valid.

These points are made to illustrate the difference between the Socialist Party and the SWP on key questions. The SWP clearly have no difficulty with someone like Catherine Connolly or Chris O’Leary participating in a Left slate but the SP would be opposed to the participation of these people on a left slate unless there was genuine and public renouncement of previously held positions such as support for coalition.

The disaster of the Respect coalition in Britain is an example of what can happen when a very loose political arrangement is agreed. Respect was launched after the peak of the anti-war movement in England, and was seen by its leadership primarily as an electoral vehicle rather than a genuine attempt to build a new broad, class-struggle based party. It attempted to take short-cuts to win electoral support and suffered the consequences.

In fact the leadership of Respect including the SWP continually narrowed its appeal. A new mass left formation cannot be built on one issue, or by appealing to just one section of the working class. Respect increasingly concentrated in the main on one section of society, the Muslim community, which it is important to win, but Respect has largely failed to reach out to other sections of the working class. The defection of a number of its councillors to New Labour, the Liberal Democrats and even the Conservative Party illustrated the very weak position of Respect and these councillors.

The SWP, Labour Party, Entryism and Political sectarianism

A further illustration of the vast overstatement of the conditions for a new workers' party made by the SWP is their statement that: “In the past, Labour or Communist Parties throughout Europe provided a home where militants learnt both tactics and politics. The radical left have now a political responsibility to replace these forces and help create a new space where a new generation of activists can emerge.

While the combined forces of the radical left are still relatively small, they are no longer irrelevant. If they were to unite in an alliance type formation they would have a far bigger impact than the sum of their parts”.

Any attempt to suggest that at this point the left in Ireland are in any way comparable to the mass parties of the working class that existed throughout Europe in and that somehow the current left could “replace” them is a wild exaggeration but also reveals and reflects the historical sectarianism inherent in the political method of the SWP. This sectarianism is further revealed in the comments about the Socialist Party’s previous orientations to the Labour Party.

The SWP never intervened in the Labour Party; their position was ultra left where they stood on the sidelines of the movement and called on the working class to come to them! The Socialist Party (Militant) practiced a tactic of entryism. That attitude stood in real contrast to that of groups such as the SWP.

The Labour Party in Ireland never developed the type of mass base of its sister parties in Britain or Germany. This was for a variety of factors including the failure of the Labour leaders to develop an independent class position on the national question particularly in the period after the 1916. The late development of capitalism in Ireland which meant that there wasn’t the development of an industrial working class as in the more advanced capitalist countries and also the existence of Fianna Fail were also factors in the stunting the growth of Labour. However their failure to adopt a class position on the national question allowed Fianna Fail to eventually emerge and use its seemingly radical position on the national question to build a base among the working class. We have only seen the erosion of this in recent years. If Brendan Corish had maintained the shift to the left that took place in the 60’s and not gone into coalition Labour could have become a mass party and the issue of a majority Labour government could have become more than propaganda.

However, over decades many of the most militant and class conscious workers orientated, joined or supported the Labour Party and it was absolutely correct for any Marxist force serious about building a base among the working class to essentially go where the working class was. This was not to sow illusions in reformism; in fact, it was the opposite, to argue the best ideas and to be the best fighters of the working class. When we operated in the Labour party and had serious influence in Labour Youth we were able to challenge in principle and in public the reformist coalitionism of the Labour leadership. We were able to forward a transitional programme for socialist change and helped to popularise socialist ideas. It was never the case that the Militant engaged in a "deep entry” tactic to win over the apparatus of the Labour Party to the left. Yet again this is a dishonest appraisal to suit a false argument.

The Labour Party ceased to be a workers' party in any meaningful way in the 1990’s, particularly after the decision to put Fianna Fail back into power after the historic gains made by Labour in the 1992 general election. Labour have never recovered its base in the working class since and though they potentially will achieve greater electoral success at the next general election, workers don’t have the same illusions and are unlikely to join the Labour Party in significant numbers as they did in the past.

The many examples given in the SWP's reply about Labour’s shameful past are correct, however, the point that the SWP leadership have historically missed is it is not what the leadership of the party did; it was the attitude and consciousness of the working class that was important.

The statement that there has been no qualitative change in the Labour Party in the last twenty years is astounding. In the past there were serious forces in Labour and many of those were socialists who actively fought against the leadership over their approach to coalition. Many Marxists including those in the Militant operated inside the Labour Party until they were expelled under the Spring leadership. Labour Youth today is a tame shadow of what it was in the past yet they are hindered from playing any real role in the party and Gilmore has moved to try to shut it down. This illustrates how repressive the Labour leadership have become and how it would be impossible for any genuine left force to operate inside the Labour Party.

In their post local election analysis the SWP states that “The most serious long term shift in Irish politics is the swing to the Labour Party”. It is important to be clear on perspectives – in our view the main swing to Labour has been electoral and this is likely to continue. However we don’t believe that serious forces will move to transform Labour. During the 60s, 70s and part of the 80s we put forward the perspective that the pressure of the working class in struggle would reflect itself in and through - although not exclusively in and through - the Labour Party. We raised the possibility of the party itself being shifted to the left or, at the very least, of a mass left wing current developing within it.

This perspective justified our orientation, our tactics and our propaganda which placed demands on the Labour leadership. The events of the late 1980s in Ireland and internationally negated our perspective and changed things completely. We could no longer put forward the idea that the working class would move to transform the Labour Party as the most likely perspective. As time has passed and the Labour leadership has shifted even more decisively to the right this perspective has become even less likely.

The current turn to Labour on the electoral plane is because of the absence of an alternative. In most cases workers will vote labour with no more than a faint hope rather than any expectation that they will be any different. Labour will likely be in power after the next general election implementing cuts and attacks on workers which will completely expose the illusions any workers have in them.


The Socialist Party has been honest and open throughout this whole process of discussion which was initiated the Irish Socialist Network (ISN) in July 2008. We pushed the discussion forward more than any other group. We posed positive proposals but did raise sharp points of difference, not for point scoring, but for political clarity.

We are open to discuss any of the points raised in this statement or previous statements with members of the SWP if they wish. We would encourage members of the SWP to debate and discuss the points we raised inside their organisation.

We are open to also discussing how the left can best work together in this changed political environment and in particular we are in favour of a genuine left electoral alliance for the general election which could take place very soon.

We hope to discuss the possibility of a slate for the general election in the coming weeks and we hope they will be more honest, open and successful discussions than those that took place in the run up to the local elections.

Socialist Party National Executive Committee
November 4th 2009.

author by temp - new left behindpublication date Wed Nov 04, 2009 22:46author address author phone Report this post to the editors

i can't make head nor tail out of this to be honest. it is rambling, incoherent, and gratingly full of exclamation marks- so much so it seems like a pisstake at times.

you would need a tribunal's worth of lawyers to decipher this, and to investigate all the accusations made against the old enemy, the swp.

is it just a smokescreen for an intransigent attitude to co-operation? i hope not.

anyway your british sisters seem far less choosey. heres what they have to say :

'THE DISCUSSIONS so far have revealed differing appraisals of the political situation in Britain, in particular the question: what is the attitude of workers to the Labour Party and the prospect of a Tory government? But while there are differences between the potential coalition partners, these should not stop an agreement being reached.'


author by Lenin24 - SPpublication date Wed Nov 04, 2009 23:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Temp - new left behind

Sorry the reply was not to your liking. Your own post was bit rambling and incoherent.

There are 6 exclamation marks in a 6000 word statement, hardly excessive!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyway maybe read it again and you might make more sense of it. How you could read intransigence into it is incredible.

The first line under the section general election slate is a positive statement for a general election slate.

author by Reality - unknownpublication date Thu Nov 05, 2009 00:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This is mad stuff. In all honesty (and there is tonnes of talk of honesty in sp document above)
There are workers fighting back across the country in community and trade union struggles and this is what the sp at?

What prompted the above statement now?
There will be tens of thousands on the streets on friday and possible strikes soon and this is the kind of mad rubbish the sp have to offer.

When will the left please wake up and smell the coffee?

Oh and just for the hell of it...............!!!!!!!

author by Turlough Kelly - No party membershippublication date Thu Nov 05, 2009 00:52author email turloughkelly at gmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

...I agree with the vast majority of the statement, but I guess we got what it said on the tin. 6,000 words of rebuttal of the SWP's statement and one fleeting reference to the actual formation of a new left slate in the final para.

One can't help wonder at the usefulness of dissecting the SWP's original article so forensically. The only people who might have believed much of the bullshit therein were SWP hard-liners, and no amount of rebuttal is going to disabuse them.

I did come across a few contradictory statements which confused me, however. At one point, Richard Boyd Barrett is rightly scolded for conflating the Labour Party and Greens with the left. Labour, all sensible people agree, is a right-wing, pro-capitalist, pro-market party. Later on, however, the statement attempts to refute the SWP's criticism of the SP's support for Labour's mayorship of Fingal County Concil by characterising it as a mere stratagem to "keep the right wing out." So if voting for a Labour mayor keeps the right wing out, what, in the eyes of the SP, does that make the Labour Party??

Elsewhere in the article we again encounter the assumption that a Labour-Fine Gael coalition will lead to disillusionment with these parties and result in a flight to the left. I had this out with Mark P on this site some time ago, and was assured, quite reasonably, that this was merely one hypothesis amongst many.

Sadly, it seems obvious that this has become Socialist Party doctrine, and the basis for their plan of action in the years ahead. This is a mistaken dogma. I feel strongly that it will not transpire. The carnage which will be unleashed by the present government upon workers, the elderly, young people and the poor will be so apocalyptic that a future Labour/FG coalition will need only to effect very cosmetic changes to the worst excesses of its predecessors in order to pose as friends of the people. I do not believe it is an exaggeration to state that continued adherence to this doctrine by the SPNEC will set the Irish left back fully ten years. It will be well into the second term of the FG/Lab government before socialist ideas begin to regain any credence (even to their present modest level) again.

Lastly, on a minor technical point, I'd like to ask any members of the SP who may be reading whether, in their view, the formation of a new left party mid-Dáil (at any given time in the future) would require sitting TDs who wished to align themselves with that party to resign their seats and seek election under the new banner? That, to me, would be the only honourable course of action.

Overall, a very reasoned and reasonable article, if somewhat redundant. I think the SP's criteria for formation of a left slate remain the most credible, albeit that I hope they remain open to honest and open-minded discussion of those criteria.

author by Turlough Kellypublication date Thu Nov 05, 2009 00:58author email turloughkelly at gmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Obviously meant "conflating the Labour Party and Sinn Féin with the left" above, not the Greens. All these sell-outs look alike to me.

author by Left activist - nonepublication date Thu Nov 05, 2009 05:19author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I tell you what, it all seems reasonable, except one thing. The SWP/PBPA wont go in... simple as, they are not interested. If I was going to vote, it would be for independent left activists, or the SP. I am in favour of the slate, and indeed there is a serious poltical vacume. Alas, I dont think the SWP are really genuinely revolutionary socialists, thats what people join the SP and other non-party groups for.

I left the SP, but there were many reasons. I still 'support' them as the only credible party in Irish poltics, the only party that will stand up for the people.

The SWP on the other hand, pose a threat to genuine left activists and the Irish left in general.

I hope some sense come to the PBPA/SWP. Imagine, a REAL left slate in Ireland. What a joy it would be. Maybe a success story could convince the 'long march through the institutions' is the answer. Hmmm, time will tell (or has it already?)


http://www.people-before-profit.org/ - http://www.swp.ie/

I would'nt like to see the Labour Party or Sinn Fein near anything sort of alliance.

author by Left activist - nonepublication date Thu Nov 05, 2009 05:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Im sure you are in a party, although that is a wild presumption, something inside me tells me you are.

I thought the piece was quite straight-forward. If the SWP have comments to make, they can.

I just wanted to point something out here. You indicated (very implicitly) that the SP in the U.K would somehow work with the Labour Party, or did you just enter that quote for no reason? Here is another part of that p.r -

''With New Labour now fundamentally no different to the Tories and the Liberal Democrats, the only certainty is that workers will face a torrent of blows from whichever party, or combination of parties, forms the next government''

Also, I think if a conversation or debate comes out of this it should not be conducted within Indymedia. There are sharks out there, and many people dont use their name, as I have chosen not to. There should be a meeting with an outside moderator[s].

I wish all involved a good luck to a slate

author by Eamon - Socialist Youth (personal capacity)publication date Thu Nov 05, 2009 05:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Reality- Your right workers and communities all across the country are fighting back. The Socialist Party has been supporting and participating in these struggles. Offering strategic advice and political backing. From Coca Cola to Mr Binman. We will be at every demonstration on Friday and every strike the follows. Providing workers with real solutions and a socialist program. Thats what the Socialist Party has to offer.

If you and the rest of the SWP think that engaging in a discussion about left cooperation is 'mad rubbish' thats fine. It confirms any assumtions that the SWP's constant calls for left unity are not serious and in fact hollow. As for why now, it is a reply to the SWP statement of late August.

Turlough- I think it is a slight exaggeration to say that there is only 'one fleeting reference to the actual formation of a new left slate in the final para'. One of the main points in the article is that the Socialist Party has already put forward proposals for a left slate, including what kind of structures and program such a slate might have.

You may well be right that such a detailed response to the SWP statement is a useless endeavor. However, I think it is only right that we set the record straight. Not all of their members are hard-liners, some are genuine socialist activists who no doubt have questions about these issues (as do some of our own members). They deserve to know the truth.

Re the 'contradictory statements which confused' you about the Labour Party. I think it is quite clear from the article but just to reiterate, the decisions to vote for a Labour Party mayor were tactical. In order to keep the 'traditional' right wing parties out. Labour are a pro capitalist, pro market party. That said, it is fair to say that they would be far less likely to support the developer led planning than FF or FG. In the interests of the communities that we represent, we made a best of a bad buch decision, also in the hope that Labour will expose themselves as a pro cuts party.

In my opinion the idea that a 'Labour-Fine Gael coalition implementing brutal cuts will lead to disillusionment', is the most likely perspective for the coming period. However it is not Socialist Party doctrine. It is impossible to predict what might unfold as the crisis worsens. Nothing can be ruled out, including a national government.

Of course the Socialist Party is open to discuss these issues with anyone. In fact we would welcome such discussions in an attempt to move forward.

author by orthodox notpublication date Thu Nov 05, 2009 07:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

taking into account the political context this is possibly the most sectarian document in the history of the irish left

irish workers under vicious assault and crying out for a strong united left to support and defend them

momentum everywhere from south tipp to donegal to refound the left

and the socialist party determined to stick a spoke in the wheel, to trip everyone up

to freeze everyone in position

the right wing are laughing if this is going to be the carry on

well done sp

you will go down in history for this

author by Lenin24 - SPpublication date Thu Nov 05, 2009 08:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Reality Unknown

To answer your question, why now? This is in response to a statement the SWP published in reply to the SP - see link below

The fact that thousands of workers will be on the streets and that many are looking for an alternative to capitalism is precisely why documents like this and discussions are necessary, so ideas can be clarified and the left put forward the best and strongest ideas possible.

Maybe in your world the left can happily skip along and unite - the reality is far different.

There is nothing remotely sectarian in this statement. There are positive proposals to move the situation re left co-operation on - but this can only be achieved where there is agreement on all the issues involved.

author by rockyracoonpublication date Thu Nov 05, 2009 09:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

A document (it really can't be called anything else) addressing the topic of left cooperation simply turns into an almost endless set of reasons to exclude every individual and party that doesn't follow the shining and one true path to salvation.

If any given wage earner, unemployed labourer, or just plain sane person came across this crap which proports, at least tangentally, to be concerned about their plight, they'd emmigrate.

As a socialist, and after reading that crap, I'd nearly join the dark side. Cooperation - what a absurd notion to a supposedly "social" oriented party.

When the conditions for making hay when the sun shines emerge, the left argues if it really sunny enough; if the hay is ripe enough; who'll do what; is the combine harvester driver pure enough ...

I often thought the surrealist movement was spawned in the morass of a socialist debate - such documents give proof to my supposition.

author by Turlough Kelly - League of Non-Aligned Interested Observerspublication date Thu Nov 05, 2009 10:56author email turloughkelly at gmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

"...the decisions to vote for a Labour Party mayor were tactical. In order to keep the 'traditional' right wing parties out. Labour are a pro capitalist, pro market party. That said, it is fair to say that they would be far less likely to support the developer led planning than FF or FG. In the interests of the communities that we represent, we made a best of a bad buch decision, also in the hope that Labour will expose themselves as a pro cuts party."

Thanks for the explanation. Can't say it makes a whole let of sense, though. Or rather, it does make a lot of pragmatic sense but seems at odds with the party's stated policies. Replace "mayor" with "Taoiseach" and you could be talking about the Green Party. I don't get this "traditional right-wing parties" business either. Right-wingers are right-wingers are right-wingers (have you ever heard Labour Cllr. Humphreys address DL/Rathdown CoCo? He'd have been kicked out of the PDs for extremism!) New Labour is not a "traditional" right-wing party, and yet it's the most influential and destructive right-wing force in European politics today!

I wanted to pick up on something else I neglected to mention in the original post too, the following: "They [SWP/PBPA] also propose a mock democracy, where groups can hold their own views but when with operating as part of the alliance must remain within the confines of a reformist programme. "

Aside from the reformist part, isn't that pretty much the same stricture the SP imposes upon its own members?! Bit rich, what?

On reflection, I do think the article, and the time and effort which must have been devoted to producing it, was something of a waste of time at a critical juncture in modern history. Sure, it might put a handful of SWP activists or SP waverers straight, but given that the SP is clearly refusing to countenance any concerted moves towards a new mass party until Labour/FG are elected, what's the point?

I don't agree with some of the posters above, however. The composition of any future left alliance is important (though the dogmatic approach of the SP is a little extreme.) We all remember what happened with WP/DL. Careerists must be kept out if possible.

author by worker - SWP (personal response)publication date Thu Nov 05, 2009 11:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

like the fact that the SWP and People Before Profit are two seperate entities- this simple fact seems to escape most SP members.
When a member of the SWP speaks for the Alliance he represents something wider than the SWP and yet at the same time SWP members at PBP public meetings will speak from the floor and state clearly a socialist case.
Isn't this the essence of how to operate in a united front?
Isn't the SP's document completely un-marxist when they state that from the start they'd argue for a socialist basis to any alliance- so left reformists who would come into the alliance thereby bringing their supporters under the influence of revolutionaries if they dont accept this can just walk out? Surely the basis of any alliance will be discussed by the participants in that alliance and will involve revolutionary socialists compromising with those of a left reformist persuasion.

"No Compromises" is the battle cry of a fool.As Lenin was fond of pointing out there is a compromise which serves the futherance of the development of the worker's movement and then there are compromises which are opportunist.
The SP would rather push those left reformists out leaving the self satisfied SP members alone again to bemoan the low level of political conciousness amongst workers and to further convince themselves of their 'premature' (that the workers to form the basis of said alliance dont exist!) thesis.
What's interesting is the support the SP obtains in their narrow vision from the anarchists on here who have never really had any kind of tactical appreciation of how to utilise elections etc and united fronts to seriously engage with working class people.

We agree with the SP that the Labour Party will sell out the workers. What we disagree on is their insistance that the Labour Party is a Capitalist Party. We still adhere to Lenin's formulation that the Labour party is a 'Capitalist Workers Party'. Labour still has SIPTU and many many other unions officially affiliated. I suppose the Union bureacracy are no longer an intermediary layer who sell out workers struggles because of the particular nature of that layer- are they now also declared capitalist? So are you throwing out a marxist definition of class?

Anyway the SWP agrees that an alliance should have no coalition with the right etc.
That the Labour Party would sell out the workers movement.

The only remaining points that the SP remain stuck on are the selection of candidates and the 'legitimacy' of candidates and the fact that the alliance should have the word 'socialist' in it. (as obviously the emancipation of the working class being the act of the working class can only occur under strictly adhered to labels!)

author by RSpublication date Thu Nov 05, 2009 11:26author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Isn't the SP's document completely un-marxist when they state that from the start they'd argue for a socialist basis to any alliance- so left reformists who would come into the alliance thereby bringing their supporters under the influence of revolutionaries if they dont accept this can just walk out? Surely the basis of any alliance will be discussed by the participants in that alliance and will involve revolutionary socialists compromising with those of a left reformist persuasion."

Maybe you should re-read the document. I'll even quote the relevant paragraph for you:

"Of course it is necessary to take account of workers' consciousness in formulating a programme and demands. However as socialists we skilfully raise our programme. If a conference or meeting were organised to initiate a new party or alliance the Socialist Party would argue strongly for the new alliance to adopt a socialist program as the best programme against cuts, new taxes etc but crucially linking these day to day issues with the need to fight capitalism. If we were not successful we would not walk away as long as we could stand over the programme that was adopted. We would however, continue to fight and argue for our ideas inside the new party or alliance and hopefully win people to our ideas."

Where exactly does that say that the only left alternative we stand for is an explicitly socialist one? The point is that revolutionary organisations should fight for their ideas, even if they're not completely accepted not lower the banner before the debate has even begun as the SWP have.

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Thu Nov 05, 2009 12:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The central issue is that the political and organisational basis of an alliance matters. It is not enough to say "we are in favour of unity", as if such pieties avoided the questions of who unity is to involve, what forces, on what common political understanding, for what common ends. Stripped of those things, declarations for unity are as meaningless as declarations in favour of puppies, sunshine and happiness. Unfortunately, the SWP seems to be determined to avoid discussing these issues, which makes me very dubious as to their seriousness.

The SWP used to argue that a left alliance should be on the basis of a basic socialist programme - in fact they used to be critical of the idea even of trying to ally with candidates coming out of real struggles in the absence of such a programme. Here's what their "Open Letter to Socialists" from the early part of this decade had to say on the subject:

"The second objection follos from this - that it is necessary to support 'independent' working class candidates, such as hospital campaigners as a first step. However without any ties to an explicit, minimal socialist programme and block there is no guarantee how these candidates will vote on wider issues - such as racism, women's rights or sectarianism"

One of the most tedious things about discussing things with the SWP is the way in which they chop and change their views without explaining the reasons for the change or even acknowledging that a change has been made. Before the British SWP made its Respect turn, to building a non-socialist, very politically loose, broad party the SWP were insistent that any broad alliance or formation in Ireland would have at least a basic or minimal socialist programme. After the Respect turn - and remember that People Before Profit was set up at a time when Respect still looked like a good idea! - they unceremoniously ditched that approach.

But the Respect experience has now played out. It fell apart. Its councillors, recruited on an extremely low political basis, have scattered to the LIberal Democrats, the Labour Party and even the Conservative Party. What balance sheet should we draw from the fate of the organisation that inspired the Irish SWP's change of line? Well the SWP would seemingly prefer not to talk about that.

In Ireland, over the last year and more, they have been wooing three or more leftish councillors around the country and looking either to incorporate them into the PBPA or to form a still broader alliance with them. The problem is that the actual politics of these councillors aren't discussed at all and nor are there actual records. I'm absolutely not opposed to reaching out to such people, but only on the basis of firm agreement not to vote for Council cuts, not to agree to coalitions on a local or national basis, not to vote for estimates including bin or water charges and so on. This isn't demanding that "left reformists" become Marxists. It's demanding that people at least agree to be consistent lefts, even consistent left reformists.

The Socialist Party's medium term strategic goal is the creation of a new mass party of the working class in Ireland. In the shorter term we are in favour of intermediary alliances or formations, if they can further that goal. In practice, this has meant putting forward proposals for joint electoral slates with other sections of the left as a starting point. We think that such a formation should have a working class orientation, a basic socialist programme and a democratic and workable structure which reflects the stage we are at.

Unfortunately the SWP are facing in a different direction. Its attitude is to push for an alliance with anyone it can scrape up, on a much less radical political basis. It's a repeat of the Respect approach. I do not at this point honestly expect the SWP to respond positively to the Socialist Party's proposals. I think that they see awkward things like socialism or class politics as an electoral handicap and imagine that they can hit the big time by tacking to the right. Time will tell however.

author by Eamon - Socialist Youth (personal capacity)publication date Thu Nov 05, 2009 13:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Turlough- I don't want to dwell on this point about Labour on the council. I'd just like to stress it was a tactical move specific to Fingal. By 'traditional', we mean parties with strong links to developers in the area, which Labour clearly don't have. I agree with your point about New Labour but it's neither here nor there.

As far as the structure of the alliance goes. You cannot compare the Socialist Party, or any revolutionary party to a broader party of the working class. Democratic centralism is by far the most effective and democratic organisational scheme for a Marxist party. Not however for a mass workers party. In such a party, a federal, democratic form of organisation which would allow as many workers’ groups and organisations, left organisations and individuals to become involved, would be most appropriate initially.

I'm not sure where your getting this idea that we're solely relying on a FG/Lab gov to come to power. Which is not the case and would be ridiculous. Your obviously misinterpreting what we've said. Events will inevitably push a new broader layer of workers into activity, regardless of who is in power. But only when such fresh layers of activists emerge can the formation of a new party begin. Right now a left slate for the general election is most appropriate.

Worker- SWP- Just one point on your post as the rest have been dealt with. You give out about Anarchists, 'who have never really had any kind of tactical appreciation of how to utilise elections etc and united fronts to seriously engage with working class people'. If you were honest you would look to your own organisations history in united fronts, elections etc and the destructive role its played. It might be a bitter pill for you to swallow, but given the SWP's reputation it is only right that others should be weary of aligning themselves with you.

Your very fond (mis)quoting Lenin. Here's one that aptly describes the SWP and its role in the PBPA "oppurtunism and ultra-leftism are two sides of the same coin" When it suits, you will stand with your SWP flags(eg at a strike) when it doesn't you stand with your PBP flags (eg outside a bank). Just contrast this approach to that of Militant in the Labour party.

author by Suzannepublication date Thu Nov 05, 2009 19:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I would like to add a couple of relevant points to this debate before the trolls take over.

The original article states “The Socialist Party has been honest and open throughout this whole process of discussion which was initiated the Irish Socialist Network (ISN) in July 2008” This is untrue, the SP and SWP/PbP engaged in talks in private unknown to the rest of the invited organisations. This would appear to indicate a lack of respect from both the SP and SWP/PbP towards the rest of the organisations involved.

Maybe the left should try and encourage people to read their postings rather than fill them with semi relevant historical background (I know, I know....you have to answer every single point the SWP/PbP make....). Otherwise the general idea behind the article is good. The SP are correct to insist that “credible candidates with a campaigning record in their community” are on any electoral slate. Look at the embarrassment of the 210 votes for PbP candidate Colm Stephens in Dublin Central or the 391 votes for Martin O’Sullivan in Artane or the 300 votes for Donnie Fell in Waterford or the 120 votes for Tim Stevens in Roscommon. At least half of the PbP slate were time wasters.

BUT the situation remains that we are facing a huge capitalist crisis and there is no credible left. Something has to be done.

author by Mark - -publication date Thu Nov 05, 2009 19:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The trolls have taken over Suzanne. You say "At least half of the PbP slate were time wasters".
That's uncalled for.

author by timewaster - nonepublication date Thu Nov 05, 2009 22:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

surely we dont judge the merit (or lack of it) of a left wing campaigner by the votes they get? in an area were nothing existed beforehand and someone new stand (like tim stevens) and the convassing gives them the chance to engage with working class people and maybe ge a few activists together in an area were there were none...that to me is not the efforts of 'time wasters'.
unless, of course, the point is just electoralism?

author by Suzannepublication date Thu Nov 05, 2009 23:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Timewaster, electoralism certainly isn’t the point but if someone wanted to engage with the working class there are far better ways than running for election having done little or no previous work in the area (hence the poor vote.) One of these ways would be to actually do a bit of political work in the area and earn the respect of the local working class.

author by Turlough Kellypublication date Fri Nov 06, 2009 00:11author email turloughkelly at gmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

...there was at least one SP candidate who polled fewer than 300 votes, and neither Daly nor Coppinger came close to bringing in a second seat despite topping their wards comfortably, which was disappointing. The SP don't stand joke candidates or parachutists, so I think it's a bit unfair to correlate number of votes with activism.

That said, I agree that PBPA are pretty indiscriminate about who they put forward and the SP are right to insist on credible candidates for a united left slate.

author by D O Dpublication date Sun Nov 08, 2009 21:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

What is wrong with having people like Chris O' Leary and Declan Bree involved? The SP have no problem co-operating with Chris O' Leary on Cork City Council.

This our socialism is better than your socialism nonsense has to stop. In fairness to the SWP, at least they have some willingness to build an alliance.

Being somewhat selective is important, but rejecting people because something they once said is slightly inconsistent with an article from the SP constitution is a bit ridiculous in my opinion.

author by the dukepublication date Sun Nov 08, 2009 22:46author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Having just been walked around the block yet again by the grand old dukes of York, sorry, trade union leaders, who having spent the last weeks letting all and sundry know that they intend selling out, this debate manages to avoid discussing the immediate dangers facing the working class and the road the to defeat they are being led down .

What else can a ‘fairer better way mean’? Talking about the rich paying their share while lorryloads of money are being delivered to them through NAMA and through various bank bailouts and privatisation scams is totally incoherent and if not plain dishonest can only be the result of stupidity. Its more likely the former and can only be interpreted as a desperate attempt by the bureaucracy to save their own skins by whatever cosmetic optics they can put on their capitulation to making the working class pay for the crisis. The fact that it won't work is beside the point, neither will the bank bailout, as the totally parasitic character of our elite remains unchanged and unrestrained.

It occurs to me that there is much more to building unity than electoralism and a lot more immediate issues in the one sided class struggle we are now experiencing which the left could unite around in order to build trust for more programmatic unity in the future.

In this dispute the problem of how to defeat and get rid of these traitors is not even mentioned, despite the reality they are only capable leading us to a disastrous defeat of a magnitude hardly matched in the history of the Irish workers movement.
what is the point of discussing electoral alliances if building a new leadership of the working class is not even on the agenda.

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Sun Nov 08, 2009 22:52author address author phone Report this post to the editors


Any successful left alliance or party will have councillors and probably TDs elected. Those councillors or TDs will have to make decisions about whether or not to enter coalitions with right wing parties. If there is an attempt to put together unity based on fudging this point, that just stores up serious trouble for the future. It's not an issue that can be avoided in the medium term.

Bree, Connolly etc have a very bad record on this particular issue. That doesn't mean that they are bad people or that they can't do anything right or that we can't work with them when they are on the right side of a particular issue. But if they haven't changed their views then it does mean that they aren't appropriate people to have as representatives of an alliance of the socialist left. This isn't an issue about personalities. It's an issue about the kind of left we want to create. Complete independence from the right wing parties is a principle that is non-negotiable. If people like Bree or Connolly have changed their minds and now argue that it is unacceptable on principle to support coalitions with right wing parties, then there isn't a problem.

The reason there's a problem is that they haven't, to my knowledge, taken that view. This has nothing to do with disagreements over some esoterical theoretical point. It is a major, practical, immediate issue for any organisation of the left.

author by Jolly Red Giant - Socialist Party/CWIpublication date Sat Nov 14, 2009 14:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

will continue to talk about the Labour Party being part of the 'left' given that Gilmore has said €4billion of cuts are necessary?

author by JP - pbppublication date Sat Nov 14, 2009 14:53author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Great to see that Jolly Red Giant has his/her eye on the big picture. Good way to avoid the thousands of workers now in struggle against cuts and redundancy- still not the right time for united left party. All sp talk pays lip-service to united left alliance. They don't seem at all serious about it. Come on- time not right for mass united left party?

author by Jolly Red Giantpublication date Sat Nov 14, 2009 15:35author address author phone Report this post to the editors

at least give me a couple of hours of pleasure from my sectarian swipe -

you guys from the SWP really need to get a sense of humour.

author by JP - pbppublication date Sat Nov 14, 2009 16:42author address author phone Report this post to the editors

At last some honesty- glad to see you recognise that all it is is sectarian sniping!
Oh and delighted to see you have gained a sense of humour too!

author by Jolly Rad Giant - Socialist Party / CWIpublication date Sat Nov 14, 2009 23:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Any chance we could have the same degree of honesty from Richard Boyd Barrett and admit that he was an absolute disgrace on national radio for condemning striking workers at the Lindsey plant in Lincolnshire who were campaigning to save their jobs and protect their wages and conditions.

When Boyd Barret was asked if he could give an example fo a strike he wouldn't support he said the Lindsey strike because it was racist - a scurrilous and compeletely untrue accusation.

What struck me at the time was that he must have considered the Ulster Workers Council strike as perfectly reasonable.

By the way - I am being perfectly serious here - just in case you are in any doubt - let's all play happy families with the leader of a political organisation that condemns striking workers - while at the same time when given an opportunity to demonstrate a clear example of right-wing reactionary strike activity he blows the chance. Who knows Boyd Barrett might start condemning the Mr. Binmen workers or the workers in Naas next.

And by the way - the next time I meet him (I haven't seen him since he was on the radio programme) he will get a piece of my mind (to put it very mildly).

author by workerpublication date Mon Nov 16, 2009 15:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Why don't you just have a socialist alliance, as the two main groups are the Socialist Party and Socialist Workers Party, and Joan Collins is ex socialist party, can't there be a socialist alliance? Joe Higgins got 50,000 votes with the dreaded word socialism after his name. So lets cut through the crap and create a socialist alliance. We all ready have a labour and green party, leave that to them.

author by another workerpublication date Tue Nov 17, 2009 09:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The biggest obstacle against having a socialist alliance as you suggest worker is that the SWP and PBPA are opposed to using the term socialism in any of their electoral material, they argue against a new political left formation being socialist because they say it will exclude people.

author by Travenpublication date Tue Nov 17, 2009 23:08author address author phone Report this post to the editors

A big consideration about amalgamations and alliances and popular fronts is: who gets to pull the strings behind the scenes and who gets star billing on platforms and who organises the platforms?

author by Stabillo Boss - PBPA - individualpublication date Wed Nov 18, 2009 12:49author address author phone Report this post to the editors

You say: "they argue against a new political left formation being socialist because they say it will exclude people".

Can you give a specific instance of this in the case of the PBPA? This is a genuine question. I'm interested.

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Wed Nov 18, 2009 16:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I don't know about the "because it will exclude people" part, but the very existence of People Before Profit in its current form is evidence that the forces involved would prefer a non-socialist alliance to a socialist one.

Presumably, Stabillo, you didn't just wake up one morning to find that someone had broken into your office and systematically deleted every reference to socialism or the working class from your election material and replaced all your slogans with bland liberal pieties of the "A voice for people, community and environment" sort. You made the decision to do that yourselves, didn't you? And presumably you had your reasons. Perhaps if you were to explain why you made the conscious decision to remove all the scary explicitly socialist stuff, we could all be enlightened as to whether it's because you think that "it will exclude people" or for some other reason?

If on the other hand, the PBPA has changed its mind and will now support the idea of an alliance that is committed to socialism and class politics, and which will have at least a minimal socialist programme, I look forward to you saying so.

author by Stabillo Boss - PBPA - individualpublication date Wed Nov 18, 2009 18:26author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thanks for that, Mark.

In a previous thread I included a long quote from the PBPA's Alternative Economic Agenda which is, by any standards, pure Marxist political economy. Class struggle. I also attempted to discuss how the use of words such as 'communism', 'social democracy', 'militant', and, perhaps, 'socialism' can, and have, gone in and out of use in the revolutionary socialist tradition. I take it that with the publication of the Socialist Party's Reply the possibility of an electoral alliance with the PBPA is not completely closed. But is it completely contingent on the use of a single word, 'socialism'? That would be semantic and pedantic given the gains at stake with an alliance, would it not?

And, as I said on the other thread, I would prefer an alliance to label itself socialist, but would accept what was decided on this point.

There is reason to believe that the SP would ally with the South Tipperary Workers and Unemployed Action Group if the SWP was not in the picture. You might find some resistance there to the use of the word 'socialism'.

Your response to my request for a specific example of the PBPA making “the conscious decision to remove all the scary explicitly socialist stuff”, and of then communicating it, was to point to “the very existence of People Before Profit in its current form”. I really would like an example of this being decided and said, and of who said it. I asked when the baddy did the deed and was told that he looks like a shifty character. I don't deny there's a tacit avoidance of the word, and some other words, but am genuinely unaware of any conscious decision to do so. I am interested to pin down an expression. The only case I ever heard was one unanswered supporter from the floor at a PBPA gathering urging that words such as 'socialism' not be used. I would hope to see a conscious decision to use the word, or at least to have the unspoken assumption consciously addressed.

You cannot seriously believe that PBPA policies and material are "bland liberal pieties” or that it is not scary to the establishment, insofar as words can be. “People, community and environment" may be to 'socialism' and 'working class' what John Lennon said his 'Imagine' was to his 'Working Class Hero', but you cannot banish people for attempting to making their message as accessable as possible even if they do bend the stick too far. Have you never come across during your visits to the doors ordinary people who do not think of themselves, yet or any more, as 'working class'? Most private sector workers are not even in a trade union. The label 'working class' does not, though it should, immediately connect with the self identity of the throngs coming out of Connolly station at 9 a.m. Connolly station at 8 a.m. might be a different matter, sure enough, though many of the immigrant workers arriving then might be even more unreceptive to socialist terminology.

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Wed Nov 18, 2009 19:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors


I wasn't answering your question because I am not whoever signed themselves as "other worker" and I don't have the time or interest to go digging at the moment. Presumably "other worker" can anwer for his or her self.

Instead I asked you a question directly, one that you haven't answered.

All of the people who came together to form People Before Profit refer to themselves as socialists, the SWP most obviously, the handful of long term left independents, Joan and Dermot and so on. Yet when they produce election material as People Before Profit they do not generally describe themselves as such. If you go and look at the election material the SWP produced prior to People Before Profit it was full of explicitly socialist arguments and it had a clear working class orientation, whatever other criticisms I might have of it.

Yet from the moment People Before Profit was formed words like "socialism" and "working class" were dropped and in so far as the concepts are referenced at all it's infrequently, in less widely circulated forums and even then, as in the example you give, often only by euphemism. I presume that you accept that there has been a shift. What I am asking you, in your opinion, why this shift has taken place. Why are these people who used to call themselves socialists, and in other circumstances would still call themselves socialists, very deliberately avoiding doing so in the context of PBP?

I'm not asking if you can justify the shift, or if you think that everything is still the same deep down. I am asking you why you think PBPA or the forces within it made this shift. It's really quite a straightforward question.

I would prefer to have an answer from you to that before moving on to other subjects, but I have no problem dealing with the other issue you raise. For the record I don't think that all of the PBPA's demands are "bland liberal pieties". I think that their demands are an incoherent reformist shopping list, but still reformist rather than liberal. Their chief slogan however "a voice for people, community and environment" is blandly liberal, and it could no doubt be used equally comfortably by Greens or Labour or the British Liberal Democrats. I don't think that the shift from talking about socialism to this kind of fluffy nonsense is accidental, which is why I'm asking you the question above.

As for the possibility of an alliance, yes I hope that one can be brought into existence. But the issues of what forces are involved, what orientation is needed and on what political programme are not minor ones. We think that PBPA is facing in the wrong direction currently on all of these points. Worse still, on current form it seems pathologically reluctant to discuss those issues seriously.

author by Ind socialistpublication date Wed Nov 18, 2009 21:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I was at a PBPA public meeting in Whynns Hotel, a celebration of their election success. Where Richard Boyd Barret during his contribution, explicitly said that they shouldn't use the words 'socialism/ socialist', or even the word 'capitalism'! Instead, he suggested words such as 'people power' and the 'for profit system'. This is certainly the stategy used by PBP, but more and more often by the SWP.

author by pbpa - pbppublication date Thu Nov 19, 2009 00:26author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It was in Wynn's Hotel not Whynns Hotel and the quote is absolute rubbish!

author by Ind socialistpublication date Thu Nov 19, 2009 00:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

rubbish. I heard it with my own two ears and so did a lot of other people. I'm sure its not the only time he said it either.

author by Stabillo Boss - PBPA - individualpublication date Thu Nov 19, 2009 10:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thank you for that Ind Socialist.

I was at that meeting, but like the French ref, seem to have missed that bit. I will take your word, anonymous hearsay though it is. Are you sure RBB did not mean that you did not HAVE TO use words like 'socialism' and 'capitalism' in the PBPA, rather than you SHOULD NOT use words like that? RBB can be casual and careless sometimes. OK, I'm accepting what you say, Ind Socialist. But there is no strategy laid down in the PBPA that excludes the use of these words. That I know of. I cannot vouch for what went on behind other doors. I have already agreed that there seems to be a tacit culture of not using them. Though some of PBPA literature might surprise some of those for whom particular words are so important. The use of words would be a tactic anyway, not a strategy. (The PBPA could do with a strategy!) You don't get the words 'revolution' or 'dictatorship of the proletariat' in many Socialist Party electoral leaflets.

RBB might have been filmed at that meeting. A meeting he was filmed at was a Press Conference of the left to oppose Lisbon. His opening presentation can be viewed at the link below. Any reasonable reader will concede that the RBB here is far from the 'reformist' and the 'liberal' that he he is being painted as on this thread. If what you hear here is not radical anti-capitalist politics what is? He even uses the term "ordinary working people" for the working class. This is a "euphemism" Joe Higgins uses ALL THE TIME. I have heard Joe use it all the way through a speech. And fair doos to him.

Have a look. Is this Eamonn Gilmore or John Gormley, or is it, as near damn it, Joe Higgins or Mick Barry?:


author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Thu Nov 19, 2009 11:46author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'm still curious as to WHY there is what you call "a tacit culture of not using" words like socialist and working class?

We can take it for granted that it isn't some fluke or accident. These are people who in other contexts would use words like those on a regular basis. Yet with their PBPA hats on, they don't. Can you give us your explanation as to why this should be?

As for whether Richard Boyd Barrett is a reformist or a liberal, I don't think that for a moment. I do think that he often does a very good impression of either however, and that it's a deliberate choice to portray himself in that way.

author by Stabillo Boss - PBPA Individualpublication date Thu Nov 19, 2009 16:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors


You ask again about why there might be a tactical policy on words. I have suggested already on this thread why there might be a principled motivation for using new language. Read again my remarks on visiting the doors and Connolly station. I put some arguments on this to you before, which you ignored then too, on the thread that followed the SWP Reply to the SP at

http://www.indymedia.ie/article/93769?&condense_comment...59707 (11th September).

There I asked, "Can an organisation be socialist and working-class without explicitly referring to itself as such?"

And suggested:

"There are circumstances when the use of terminology is limited for tactical or legitimate propaganda purposes. In France for example ‘socialist’ would in casual parlance be associated with the French Socialist Party and would for many mean ‘social democratic’. Radical left organisations use the word ‘socialism’ about themselves, of course, in technical discussion, but the word does not in itself denote any deep change in France. Other terms need to be employed: anti-capitalist, revolutionary communist, Marxist, etc. Even ‘Communist’ is weak in France.

"The Irish Socialist Party would sensibly not demand that even a Marxist organisation call itself ‘communist’, because ‘communist’ (the mark of Marx) has absorbed popularly misunderstandable connotations. The language of the left is historically conditioned like all language. Who asks now for a single in a chipper? Marx used communism as the first stage, and socialism as the ultimate stage, in the 1844 Manuscripts, before reversing the use of these words later. The Bolsheviks ditched the long-established and universal term for Marxist socialism, ‘Social Democracy’, when the Second International broke up over the Great War. In a complete change of use ‘social democracy’ became the instantly recognized words for reformism, Labour Parties and even the social conscience of Fine Gael. There is no organisation more familiar with the social and tactical redundancy of language than the Socialist Party, which quite sensibly abandoned its brand name of ‘Militant’ because media persecution had been so successful that the name was a hindrance. Without a doubt a drawback in the working class for the always sane and reasonable WSM is their insistence on, or principled attachment to, the term ‘anarchist’. It is just very difficult to get over the popular misunderstanding of the word.

As it happens, I do not think ‘socialism’ is too difficult or off-putting a word in contemporary Ireland. On the contrary I think the word should be promoted, even at a slight risk of misunderstanding, to put forward the notion that a complete alternative to capitalism is available and that this alternative has a long, experienced and definite tradition. (We are fortunate in Ireland to have a socialist icon, if that is not a contradiction in terms, readily accessible and respectable to ordinary people: James Connolly. Though even he has some new cultural barriers to get over. Che Guevara is perhaps hipper now. They should make that Connolly movie soon.)"

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Thu Nov 19, 2009 17:43author address author phone Report this post to the editors

With all due respect, Stabillo, you are not answering my question, except perhaps indirectly and by implication. I am not asking if you think an organisation can be socialist without using the word, if socialist content can be outlined through the use of euphemism or anything similar. That's something I'm more than willing to discuss, but it isn't the question I've put to you repeatedly now.

I am asking you why a bunch of self-described socialists, who have no problem using the word socialist in other circumstances, go out of their way to avoid the word when they have their People Before Profit hats on? It isn't an accident of some kind. It is clearly a deliberate decision. So what is the grounding for that decision?

The closest I can get to an answer from your postings so far is that you think that the people calling the shots in the PBPA think that the words like socialism or working class put people off and that they need to find some way to describe their ideas. You then go on to say that you think that those people are wrong, which I'm glad to hear but which leads directly to another question: Why aren't you criticising them for it and trying to convince them otherwise?

As it happens, I think that you are only partially right. The likes of the SWP have no problem with using the word socialist or the term working class when they have their SWP "revolutionary party" hat on. They don't think that these words are inherently outmoded or have to be replaced in all circumstances. They just don't want to use them in the electoral field. And to understand why, you need to look at the history of the PBPA and its predecessors.

If I describe the PBPA as an SWP front you will no doubt object vociferously. And you'd be right to, at least at the moment and at least in Dublin. But elsewhere, as someone points out in the article about the apparent SWP split in Belfast, it by and large is just the SWP if it exists at all. And, crucially, when it was founded it really was just the SWP just about everywhere. They had great difficulty finding even one non-SWP candidate in their first electoral run out and the independents who later joined when busy pissing about in their own unity project the CIL. Back then, the PBPA was the SWP in a different hat. They took the decision to set it up and they decided on its political basis.

Now if you look back at the history of their electoral endeavours, you will find that since they first started standing in elections in 1997 their electoral work has been less and less radical in its presentation. Before 1997 they opposed standing in elections. Their platform in 1997 was, if anything, ultra-left. In the early 2000s they were calling for a socialist alliance and even arguing against supporting single issue candidates who weren't standing on what they described as a "minimum socialist programme".. They by 2004 they were willing to back candidates coming from particular struggles. In 2005, they launched the PBPA.

There were two key things driving this change. One was lack of electoral success. They continuously drew the conclusion that they were scaring people away, so at each successive step they ditched more of the scary stuff. The other factor was their British sister party. The British SWP was going through a similar process and in the early 2000s was coming to the conclusion that the Socialist Alliance was too narrow and that something much broader and softer had to be launched. The result was Respect, which abandoned the talk of socialism and class politics, adopted an incoherent reformist programme, found allies outside of the socialist left and apparently had great success. You can't understand why the PBPA looks the way it does if you don't understand that it was designed at the height of the British SWP's euphoria over Respect and at a time when the Irish SWP was getting very frustrated that its near decade of electoral activity had yet to result in a single person being elected to anything.

The PBPA was designed as a shortcut to electoral success in the Respect mold. And it carries all of the strengths and weaknesses that implies. It was designed as a Respet for Irish conditions.

So the SWP, following in the footsteps of the British, set up a "coalition" (although to start with there was nobody else in the coalition) with radical leftish policies, but no explicit commitment to socialism or to class politics. In fact just as socialists were relegated to one part of the Respect coaltion, they were only supposed to be one part of the PBP Alliance - which initially described itself as an "alliance of socialists, enviromentalists and activists" in the small print. That is, the PBPA was never supposed to be a socialist organisation, but an organisation uniting socialists and various others.

In their original conception, the SWP is the hard, socialist, Marxist, inner core. The PBPA is the soft, fluffy, non-socialist outer circle involving both socialists and non-socialists. Kieren Allen used the metaphor of "concentric circles" to describe SWP strategy at the time, although as I think that particular metaphor is associated with the now disgraced John Rees he may use some other terminology nowadays.

Once you look at the consistent rightward evolution of the SWP's electoral work over a decade and the apparently enormous success which the British SWP were enjoying at the time with Respect, many of the PBPAs apparent peculiarities suddenly make sense. But the problem is that these founding peculiarities continue to inform the PBPA's political approach. Slogans like "a voice for community, people and environment" are not used because some printers accidentally got your leaflet contract mixed up with some work they were doing for the Green Party. They are chosen because that's the way in which the PBPA wants to present itself - not too radical, not too socialist (and if I was feeling particularly cynical I might add "not too scary to the good burghers of Kingstown").

So to get back to a question you've asked me, do I think that it's possible to put forward socialist ideas without using the word? Yes, I do, although I think it's unnecessary to do so. But the crucial issue regarding this discussion is that I don't think that this is what the PBPA are doing. The people who came up with the PBPA idea still use words like "socialism" and "working class" in their non-electoral activism. They don't think that the terms are outdated and need to be replaced. Instead they think that the terms scare some votes off and the PBPA represented an opportunist attempt to get people elected without having to convince people of difficult socialist arguments. The PBPA is an attempt to find a shortcut to the electoral bigtime.

My objection to that isn't that I would always and everywhere oppose being involved in a party or alliance that had very weak politics. Sometimes that's the best that could be done. If I lived in Germany, for instance, I would certainly join Die Linke, even though its politics are no better than those of the PBPA and are arguably worse. In England, where a national trade union was taking the lead in establishing an electoral challenge to Labour and where the socialist left wasn't in a position to make an electoral impact on its own terms I would have been involved in No2EU despite not at all liking the name and thinking that its platform could have been very much better.

In Ireland though, we aren't talking about allying with really existing reformist forces which are insisting on having a watery programme. There are no such forces interested in a left alliance, which is why the PBPA is left scrabbling after the odd marooned ex-Labour councillor. We are talking about a situation where the alliance or alliances are being set up entirely by socialists and by revolutionary socialists at that. We are in a position where we can establish something on our own terms, with a positive, socialist vision and a class struggle orientation. We do not have to make the kind of concessions the PBPA makes on programme, on presentation, on language, on orientation. We can set up a democratic, broad based, alliance, based on a firm commitment to at the very least a minimal socialist programme. And as Joe Higgin's European elections vote shows, there is absolutely no reason why we cannot win electoral support on a socialist basis.

So yes, like yourself, I hope that an alliance can be set up. But I don't favour just setting up an alliance on any old political basis. And unlike yourself, I don't think that the SWP or some of the other people leading the PBPA think that we are arguing about semantics when it comes to talking about socialism or the working class. I think that they have made a very deliberate decision not to do so and I think that they will be extremely reluctant to change course because they do think it matters.

author by ghost of leninpublication date Thu Nov 19, 2009 19:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

SWP activists must push their leadership back to the left so it the SP can stomach an alliance. SP members on the other hand have to open up to the idea of working with the SWP. The two parties together could make a decent enough electoral alliance.

author by DisillusionedLeftypublication date Thu Nov 19, 2009 20:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

You're both useless to the Irish people right now. Get a room and stop annoying us with your squabbling. We have REAL issues and it seems obvious that you are both just a waste of time. You might as well be working for the right the way you draw people away from what is going on and get them squabbling among themselves over crap.

author by Mark Ppublication date Thu Nov 19, 2009 20:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors

If you find that political discussion is "annoying", you are free not to read it. If you find it difficult to avoid being drawn to our words of wisdom here are some tactics that, with the application of a bit of willpower, may assist you:

1) Don't go on to Indymedia and click on an article called "Socialist Party responds to SWP on Left Unity" if you don't want to read an Indymedia discussion about a debate between the Socialist Party and the SWP about left unity.

2) Do something else with your time. Something that will make you happier.

If this approach doesn't work, feel free to try another tack. If you still find yourself unable to resist reading our opinions, feel free to let us know here in this thread and we'll come up with some more suggestions as to how you can better occupy yourself.

author by DisillusionedLeftypublication date Thu Nov 19, 2009 21:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"If you find it difficult to avoid being drawn to our words of wisdom "

I guess this shows what is really going on here. A few inflated egos looking for notice.

author by johnpublication date Thu Nov 19, 2009 23:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

labour and sf decisions to move to the cente are made in the belief that going into coaition with bigger parties they could implement some of there programe. in a hypotetical world what would a single party labour government or sf government look like where they don't have to make concessions on there progrmme to parties further right than them, at a minimum i don't think its unreasonable to presume that dose consesions would be dumped. i think a love the sinner hate the sin approch is more realistic. theres also effecting others stratagy. FF and FG presumeing the greens get wiped out in the next election will need either or both sf and labour to get in to government. it makes more scence to pull them on side than simply dismissing them. though i think the original posters structure for holding them together is interesting. people shouldn't be bound by the mental limitations or excess of others. maybe if there was an agreed set of principles on the line of what the swp advoctated the lest of... the most of.... and when it comes to issues of electoral liturature party A lists out its demands and in terms of broad frounts simpley says 'we also endorse this allience' make it an extra sort of like external asociation.

just a suggestion

author by Stabillo Boss - PBPA - individualpublication date Fri Nov 20, 2009 19:42author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Mark says, " you are not answering my question...I am not asking if you think an organisation can be socialist without using the word, if socialist content can be outlined through the use of euphemism or anything similar.... I am asking you why a bunch of self-described socialists, who have no problem using the word socialist in other circumstances, go out of their way to avoid the word when they have their People Before Profit hats on? ..."

It is always better for an organisation that is socialist without using the word to begin to use the word. There may be good tactical reasons, or bad opportunist reasons, for not using words that are felt might be jargonistic. The point I am addressing is the condemnation of the PBPA on the basis, and as differences are discussed and clarified, primarily on the basis, of not using particular words. I have argued that there is a case for the modifaction of language by socialists, and that the Socialist Party has seen this too at various times. I don't see the need to drop the word 'socialism' now. On the contrary I see the need to promote it. However it could stiil be the case that an organisation could be socialist without, for whatever reason, using the word socialist. You impute a certain motivation in this case. Fair enough. I might agree with you. What I wish to challenge is your rejection of something because it won't use particular words and says the same thing in a different way.

The way the SWP see it, on face value and rightly or wrongly, is that the PBPA is or aims to be an alliance that includes revolutionary socialists and non-revolutionaries, some of whom they perceive or expect to dislike certain labels [but not apparently certain splits!]. Who would the Socialist Party ally with in it's posited new workers's party when the objective conditions are right? Would it be just those who call themselves socialist? Would it be just revolutionary socialists. And, touching on Mark's development of his argument, if it were not just revolutionary socialists would there not be a limitation to, or a 'watering down' if you wish, of the policies of the new party compared to the Socialist Party?

The real question is not Socialist Party or Socialist Workers Party, but revolutionary group or broad left party.

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Sat Nov 21, 2009 18:19author address author phone Report this post to the editors

To answer your question Stabillo, if there were real reformist forces insisting on what we would regard as concessions in the programme of a united group then we would, depending on the circumstances, be willing to consider making those concessions to forge unity. We would argue for socialist politics vigorously, but we would not insist that a united organisation adopt our prefered programme - and our sister organisations in other countries participate in a range of broad or reformist parties on exactly that kind of basis, arguing vigorously inside a coalition for socialist policies.

That is not what is happening in Ireland. Here there is not a coming together of the revolutionary left with substantial forces to their right and a deal being struck on political programme. Instead we have self-described Marxists substituting themselves for those forces to their right, pretending to be those forces because they think that it will provide them with an electoral shortcut. The rather desperate sight of the PBPA trying to scrape up the odd isolated councillor who used to be in one of the main parties is emblematic of that - these simply are not substantial forces.

The Socialist Party is opposed to that as a method. We think it's quite unnecessary to do that and that the socialist left can win support on the basis of boldly making socialist arguments and class struggle arguments.

We accept that a united organisation will likely not have our full revolutionary programme, but that doesn't mean that we regard the politics of the united organisation as irrelevant. Its politics, the arguments it presents to the working class, matter. Broad left alliances and parties come with a range of different political perspectives, from the old Labour reformism of Die LInke to the explicitly socialist and significantly more left wing Left Bloc. It is a mistake to dump all of these organisations in together - they have different strengths and weaknesses. We don't think that it is at all necessary to make the kind of concessions People Before Profit makes here - a much more radical, much mor socialist, political alliance is possible.

I do not agree that this is an argument simply about the use of language. People Before Profit is not a socialist organisation that for some odd reason refuses to use the word. It was specifically conceived in the Respect tradition as an organisation that would bring together not just revolutionaries with reformists but socialists with non-socialists. The people who avoid arguing for socialism and avoid trying to popularise socialist ideas are themselves self-described socialists and have no hesitation in using the term in other contexts. They don't think that the term socialism is outdated jargon, they just don't want to talk about in their electoral work because they think that presenting themselves as leftish community activists and avoiding what they see as hard arguments can gain them votes. We think that's a dishonest way to build and worse still it is in the longer term an ineffective way to build - Respect shows clearly what can happen to a left party built on that sort of basis.

The Irish left can and should do better than that.

author by Hypothetical member - The Hypothetical Broad Left Formation As-Yet Unbornpublication date Sat Nov 21, 2009 22:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

...but let's not forget the Socialist Party's soft stance on nationalism, explained to me by SP activists as an attempt not to alienate working class voters (and, let's face it, because the party itself has a significant nationalist streak.) Ditto the avoidance of the phrase "working class." And let's not forget Joe's admission in the Irish Times during the summer that he avoided the word "communism" because of its connotations.

So let's stop casting stones and start casting votes for a united left slate.

author by Eamon - Socialist Youth (personal response)publication date Sat Nov 21, 2009 23:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Quite clearly your very confused. However, I am intruiged as to how you came to the conclusion that the Socialist Party has a soft stance on nationalism. Can you give any examples to back up your bizzare claim, that the Socialist Party has a "significant nationalist streak"? Could you also explain why that would have any relevance to "PBPA's frontism"?

The word 'communism' has Stalinist connotations. Thats a universally accepted truth and (not being a Stalinist) probably the reason Joe avoids using the word on a regular basis. There plainly isn't an avoidance of the term "working class" and if you ever read any of our material, you would know this.

Look forward to working with you in "The Hypothetical Broad Left Formation As-Yet Unborn".

author by Hypothetical member - For Unity, Against Obstructionismpublication date Sun Nov 22, 2009 16:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

SP openly aspires to a United Ireland and the break-up of the UK into England, Scotland & Wales in accordance with nationalistic aspirations, in other words ethnic ghettoization. Joe, like Gerry Adams, never wastes an opportunity to unleash the old Gaeilge either.

So you accept that it's okay to water down terminology in order to avoid scaring voters off (and all Marxists necessarily believe in communism as the end-point of socialism, so it's not something you don't believe in.) Very well. That's the same thing PBPA are doing with the word socialism. "We believe in the principle but we don't need to state it in so many words."

I don't agree with it in either case, nor with the residual nationalism which is rife in the Irish Left. As a member of any future alliance, should I choose to join, I would fight tooth and nail to extirpate all traces of nationalism from it.

author by Jolly Red Giant - Socialist Party / CWIpublication date Sun Nov 22, 2009 20:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

After decades of being (wrongly) accused of being pro-unionist for not supporting the 'armed struggle' - the SP is now (wrongly) accused of being 'nationalistic' - first time for everything.

author by cépublication date Sun Nov 22, 2009 21:34author address author phone Report this post to the editors

is joe higgans from the kerry gaeltacht? whats wrong with speaking irish? i've never got how some socialists are sneaking regarders for cultural imperialism.

author by Lingowatcherpublication date Mon Nov 23, 2009 08:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Other TDs who have been noted for speaking Gaelic fairly fluently include Michael D. Higgins (Labour), Trevor Sargent (Green Party), the late Tony Gregory (Independent) and Éamon Ó Cuív (FF). I think Enda Kenny (FG) and one of the SF deputies have also spoken on Radio na Gaeltachta and TG4 when asked for their opinions.

Is le gach duine sa tir an teanga. Self described republicans of different hues don't have a monopoly.

author by Eamon - SY/ International Socialist Resistance (personal response)publication date Mon Nov 23, 2009 09:59author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This is a reluctant reply because the points you've made are so absurd, I'm not sure they deserve one. But here goes:

Regarding our 'soft stance on nationalism', your wrong on so many levels it's hard to know where to start. Just look at our record in the North. Where even during the difficult early decades of the Troubles, we were the only force on the left that did not bend to the pressures of nationalism or religious sectarianism. We never gave support, critical or otherwise, to the IRA or Sinn Fein (unlike most of the left). We advocated working class unity, Catholic and Protestant, as the only solution and still do.

The national question is unsolvable on the basis of capitalism. Therefore the only thing that we 'openly aspire to' is a socialist solution - working class unity to bring about a socialist Ireland as a free and voluntary part of a socialist confederation of Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales and, on a wider scale, of a socialist European federation.

The fact that your accusation, of a "significant nationalist streak", is even partly based on Joe Higgins speaking Irish (his first language) occasionally says enough. Just wanted to clarify that, I still don't know what it has to do with this topic.

If you think that we should be calling ourselves 'Commumists' thats fine, and your welcome to call yourself whatever you like. Just don't be suprised if people dismiss you because of their preconceived notions about those words. The likelihood is that you will scare them off. However the same cannot be said of the word Socialist/ Socialism, in fact the opposite is true. The Socialist Party defeated SF and FF in the euro elections, during which we put forward a clear socialist program (which included nationalisation of the entire banking sector, under democratic workers control and management), as did all our elected representatives. Hence, there is absolutely no need to water down such words.

The point however, is not about whether we should water down our terminology. It's about whether we should water down our politics.

author by Hypothetical member - The A La Carte Socialist Alliancepublication date Mon Nov 23, 2009 12:01author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Absolutely, and the SP and its forbears deserve credit for not playing that game. However, the fact that the SP is organised in NI but has sister parties in the rest of the isles is a sectarian act. The concept of a "national question" is also sectarian. There is no national question, there is only a class question, in Ireland as elsewhere. "Anti-imperialism" and "self-determination" are euphemisms for nationalism which certain elements of the left use to garner popular support. The only group with a right to self-determination is the working class of the world, within a configuration which recognises and embraces all races, cultures and ethnicities without institutionalising them.

As for the Irish language, I attended two gaelscoileanna myself and have only used it since to follow the commentary on Sacar Beo. There is no need to address a working-class audience in Irish, and to do so is an act of cultural chauvinism which privileges Irish above the language of the overwhelming majority. I would have absolutely no problem with Joe learning Polish and using it to address a significant section of workers who don't understand him currently. That would be far more productive than grandstanding as Gaeilge.

author by Hypothetical memberpublication date Mon Nov 23, 2009 12:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

...the relevance of all this is that the SP is bringing its own un-socialist baggage (nationalism, cultural chauvinism) to the table, just as the SWP is. The SWP's frontism is therefore not a credible barrier to unity.

author by Enraged of realitypublication date Mon Nov 23, 2009 12:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Hypothetical member - The A La Carte Socialist Alliance you are living in cloud cuckoo land, a land were semi-detached political sects dream up their own reality which has little to do with the real material world.

You make what must rank as one of the most absurd political statements in the history of Irish politics when you said above "There is no national question, there is only a class question, in Ireland as elsewhere."

You cannot wish away the national question in Ireland. To do so is dangerous and doesn't recognise the reality of the everyday lives of working class people. The majority of people in Northern Ireland are divided politically along sectarian lines. The majority also political occupy one of two camps, nationalist or unionist. Your claim completely denies reality and therefore cannot be taken seriously.

The majority of nationalists in Ireland aspire to the re-unification of the island. The majority of unionists oppose this and want to remain part of the UK. That simple fact is enough to prove that there is a national question in Ireland. The role of Marxists is not to deny this, nor to try to pretend that it doesn't extist, it is the role of Marxists to come up with a programme and strategy for how to resolve the national question in the best interests of the working class and to do so in such a way that unites the working class in a struggle for socialism. This is what the Socialist Party does. I would suggest you should move out of your dreamworld and enter the material world of sectarian conflict and divisions and try to come up with some credible contribution to politics.
In the meantime anyone who is genuinely interested can read about what the Socialist Party actually says about the national question in Ireland at www.socialistparty.net and www.socialistworld.net

author by Hypothetical member - The Nationalist Alliance With A Socialist Veneer?publication date Mon Nov 23, 2009 12:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"The majority of nationalists in Ireland aspire to the re-unification of the island. The majority of unionists oppose this and want to remain part of the UK. That simple fact is enough to prove that there is a national question in Ireland."

Ah, right. So there is a national question and the above is the multiple choice answer? Forgive me, as a socialist I thought the unity of the working class across all ethnocultural divides was our goal. Evidently I was mistaken. So which of the above does the SP stand for? There is of course an issue of sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland. It takes place outside of class politics and therefore is something to be overcome, not something to be pandered to.

As for being detached from reality, I supported the Belfast Agreement as a means of ending the blood-letting. Does that mean I have also to support the undemocratic and divisive system of power-sharing in the hope of marginalizing the terrorists? At what point do we stand up for socialism?

I refuse, as should any genuine socialist, to take a position on the "national question." Whether the island of Ireland belongs to a capitalist republic or a capitalist kingdom is irrelevant. It's capitalism that's the problem. The concept of the nation state must be dismantled in parallel with capitalism. That will not be achieved by favouring one or other nationalistic aspiration.

author by Eamon - Socialist Youth (personal response)publication date Mon Nov 23, 2009 14:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

For the record, I realise that I'm wasting my time and probably shouldn't dignify your post with a response. But in the interest of clarity- The truth is that there really is no relevance for your points to this discussion. Nobody is bringing any 'un-socialist baggage to the table' except you, whoever you are. Your the first and only person to bring up the question of nationalism.

You obviously have an intense and slightly irrational opposition to nationalism in any form. Which is fine and fundamentally I agree with you, but you've taken your case to the extreme. Your arguments are beyond dogmatic and are completely removed from reality. It's clear that these are the arguments of someone who has never tried to work, or build anything within the working class.

I agree with Enraged of reality and you should read more carefully because the answers to your questions have already been given. Of course the Socialist Party doesn't take sides and you know this. We constantly argue against sectarianism on a class basis and put forward a socialist program as an alternative. Nothing in the north can be achieved without uniting the working class. The politics of national identity will always undermine working class unity and strengthen the hands of those on either side who gain from the maintenance of division. The job of socialists, as Lenin put it is to always to begin with the working-class and to view nationalism in terms of its strategic interest.

You say, "the fact that the SP is organised in NI but has sister parties in the rest of the isles is a sectarian act." This is a really amazing statement to make. A socialist that is ardently opposed to nationalism , is also opposed to internationalism! Also your point about the Irish language being cultural chauvinism is absolute bullshit!

author by looking for a reportpublication date Mon Nov 23, 2009 21:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The SWP's Marxism event at the weekend had a discussion on Left Unity. Are there any reports on the debate there between the SP and the SWP?

author by Eamon - Socialist Youth (personal response)publication date Tue Nov 24, 2009 01:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Christine- If your trying to imply that the Socialist Party ever gave critical support to the PIRA your very much mistaken. Likewise, if you think you heard Peter Taafe say something along those lines you must have misunderstood him. Our position has always been that the PIRA’s campaign was not only futile, but was totally counterproductive. It was based on only one section of the working class and had the effect of infuriating the other. It helped deepen the sectarian divide and, in so doing, weakened the working class, the only force capable of showing a way forward. The first issue of Irish Militant, produced at the beginning of 1972, carried an article on the PIRA. Its headline summed up our attitude: "Provisional IRA strategy will not defeat Imperialism."

Looking for a report- Unfortunately the discussion on, "Where now for the left" at Marxism was a wasted opportunity by the SWP. There was no debate between the Socialist Party and the SWP. Which, given the situation facing the left and the SWP's constant calls for 'left unity' says quite a lot. You would think that any discussion on 'the Left' would include the most prominent (by far) figure on the Irish left, Joe Higgins MEP, a Marxist no less. Or any representative from the Socialist Party, the other main Marxist party in Ireland. They prefer the likes of an ex-Labour councillor.

The Socialist Party would have been more than willing to participate and indeed would have welcomed the opportunity. Our representatives that did attend where given less than two minutes to speak from the floor. Furthermore, with the exception of the discussion on the left, our members that attended Marxism where prohibited from selling our material or distributing leaflets (which put forward proposals on left cooperation and the building of a left slate for the general election. With particular emphasis on participating in discussions).

The only conclusion one can draw from this, is that the SWP (despite its pretence) are opposed to serious discussion on 'left unity', are opposed to exchanging ideas and are clearly more at home with the reformist ideas of Fintan O' Toole.

author by BC - Socialist Partypublication date Tue Nov 24, 2009 01:53author address author phone Report this post to the editors

1) I believe that the SWP did invite a Socialist Party member to speak. That is they invited him personally to speak, they did not invite the Socialist Party to send a representative. I have no idea why.

2) Members of the Socialist Party were instructed to stop distributing material outside meeting rooms during the morning and afternoon sessions but were allowed to do so at the last session of the day. Again I'm not sure why that distinction was drawn..

3) The two Socialist Party members who spoke from the floor were given three, rather than two, minutes to speak, I think.

As far as the meeting was concerned, the platform speakers consisted of two SWP members speaking on behalf of People Before Profit in the North and South, plus Declan Bree, the independent socialist councillor and Paddy Healy, of the South Tipperary Workers and Unemployed Action Group, along with a supporter of Marx21, the SWP's sister group within the German Left Party. I don't believe that it was advertised as a debate, more as a discussion.

Healy and Bree both talked of their commitment to the idea of building a left alternative in Ireland. As I understand it both the WUAG and Bree have been discussing the issue with the PBPA for some time now, although neither have joined as of yet. The Marx21 supporter talked about the Left Party from the point of view of his group (and bizarrely was to incorrectly say that the Socialist Party's sister group in Germany is outside of the Left Party). The PBPA speakers plugged People Before Profit, with Brid Smith devoting some time to listing the points of its platform.

The Socialist Party speakers from the floor outlined, briefly, the Socialist Party's proposals for an alliance of socialists for the next elections. SWP speakers outlined what they saw as the extreme urgency of the situation and the necessity for the left to get together immediately. They argued against the idea of an alliance on the basis of socialist politics, portraying the idea as overly prescriptive and narrow . Richard Boyd Barrett argued that there would be major social changes within two years and that it was up to the left to determine what kind. Their overall view seemed to be that there are huge opportunities for the left and that the window of opportunity is very narrow and will soon close.

Some non-SWP members of the PBPA spoke from the floor, arguing that the PBPA should have functioning branches and regular branch meetings, that it should have a publication and should at some point become a party. SWP members disagreed with them on this, at least about it having a publication or becoming more like a party. The non-SWP people also argued that they saw no reason for an alliance not to be socialist.

There were more than 80 people in the audience, which is a decent crowd given the out of the way location, that you had to pay in and that there were smaller meetings going on at the same time.

author by Archivistpublication date Tue Nov 24, 2009 13:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It would seem that the same arguments are used ten years on. The only significant development? The SP hard man of the time is now pissing out the SWP/PBPA tent.

Related Link: http://www.socialistalternative.org/literature/leftunity/app.html
author by Jolly Red Giant - Socialist Party / CWIpublication date Tue Nov 24, 2009 20:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Maybe you could give us the benefit of your knowledge -

given that you posted a link from correspondence from 10 years ago - who do you think was correct in it's approach to the issue of launching a new left party - the SP or the SWP?

author by Left on the sidelinespublication date Wed Nov 25, 2009 11:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

In the midst of the greatest crisis of capitalism in living memory and ferocious media attacks on striking workers, who was right and who was wrong in a ten-year-old argument is definitely the most pressing issue. No wonder we have the 6,000 word thesis above.

author by Fed uppublication date Wed Nov 25, 2009 12:59author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Left on the sidelines, these are issues are extremely important precisely because of the current political situation. What the left should be doing today cannot be divorced from issues which are at the heart of this debate, programme, banner and strategy. For example, whether the left has a political connection to Labour and Sinn Fein is of crucial importance. The attitudes of the SWP to the Labour Party are central. Yesterday, Labour Party TDS crossed the picket line at Dail Eireann! The Labour leadership opposed the strike. Do you think that this is not important? People have explained above and in other places the SWPs ambiguous attitude towards Labour. At Marxism RBB made a point about Eamonn Gilmore needing to decide which side he was on. Bizarre.

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Wed Nov 25, 2009 14:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The underlying presumption that it is impossible to both discuss politics seriously and also carry out useful activism is a core part of the SWP worldview. Or more accurately, it's a core part of their mindset when it suits them. They do of course put forward their own political ideas, explicitly or implicitly. It's only a problem when someone disagrees or wants to discuss their ideas critically.

Maybe some technologically minded SWP supporter could write a little time saving programme, saving their members from having to write out the same argument over and over again. It could work with drop down menus.

So they could start with the standard:

"How can you waste time..."

And then they could choose from a long list of options including things like:

"...arguing about ideas..."
"...talking about politics..."
"...criticising the SWP..."
"...disagreeing with whatever the SWP is saying this week..."
"...trying to work out what kind of political basis an alliance of the left should have..."

Then there'd a standard:

"...at a time..."

And then another menu of choices:

"...when workers are taking industrial action!"
"...when Palestinians are being bombed!"
"...when there's a war on somewhere!"
"...when we could be handing out leaflets!"
"...when there's an exciting event to be built!"
"...when... actually screw it, I don't even care why just stop disagreeing with us you sectarians!"

I realise that this would mean a small investment in time and energy from one of their members, but surely over time the investment would reap significant rewards. Just think of all the time that their supporters would save by not having to type out this type of foolishness over and over again. Over a year or two it could add up to dozens, maybe even hundreds of extra leaflets handed out. Eventually, as time allows, the programme could be made sophisticated enough that human element could be replaced by an entirely automated system.

author by Séamuspublication date Thu Nov 26, 2009 17:01author address author phone Report this post to the editors

is joe higgans from the kerry gaeltacht? whats wrong with speaking irish? i've never got how some socialists are sneaking regarders for cultural imperialism.

I don't think I've ever heard Joe Higgins speak Irish in a public setting, but he did participate in the TG4 documentary "Sóivéidí na hÉireann".

author by Stabilo Boss - PBPA - individualpublication date Thu Nov 26, 2009 18:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Fed up urged: "What the left should be doing today cannot be divorced from issues which are at the heart of this debate, programme, banner and strategy."

But see the PBPA leaflet distributed on 24th November. Surely there is enough here for sufficient unity to begin to create the alternative that is so badly needed. Surely 90% agreement is enough to act on. The Socialist Party's leaflet on the same day, at the same events, made basically the same demands and called yet again for a new worker's party. Yes! Yes! Yes! Lets do it!

The PBPA leaflet is here (it is all about workers, making the rich pay, class struggle; it is against social partnership and even includes socialists explictly!):


author by Jolly Red Giant - Socialist Party / CWIpublication date Thu Nov 26, 2009 20:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Briefly for Seamus - Joe Higgins regularly speaks in Irish on public platforms - Dail (when he was there) public meetings etc. Given the lack of knowledge of Irish among the population at large it is generally by way of introduction - but he does use Irish - and he is a regular contributor to TG4 and RnaG.

Now on to Stabilo Boss and the PBP leaflet.

Is there 'enough here for sufficient unity to begin to create the alternative that is so badly needed'.

Well to start with Stabilo - one swallow doesn't make a summer. Issuing one leaflet does not automatically mean that the attitude and strategy of the SWP through PBP has changed.

And with regards the leaflet itself - I would actually have a problem with some of the wording. It may be that it was unintentional but sections could be interpreted as wanting cuts against one group of workers in order to protect another group and accepting cuts in some public services - for example -

the leaflet states -
'Yet almost half of public sector workers earn less than the average industrial wage. These workers should not be targeted but those who have gained most from the Celtic Tiger should'.

This statement could easily be read (and I did read it like this) as saying half of public sector workers earn less than the AIW and the other half benefitted most from the Celtic Tiger and should be targetted.

The leaflet also states -
'No cuts in vital public services'

This could well mean that the PBP is opposed to cuts in 'vital' public services - but is willing to accept cuts in public services that are not 'vital'. I would ask you - do you consider for example a local stduies centre run by a county or city library service as vital? and if not - should it be cut with it's workforce being dumped on the dole?

It is also a bit of a stretch to suggest that - 'After each the government barrowing requirement grew. That’s because the government policy of cuts is depressing the economy'.

The borrowing requirement grew because of the collapse in tax receipts brought about by a collapsing economy and increasing social welfare payments - not by government cuts - the cuts implemented so far have been tax increases and have had a relatively minor impact on the government's borrowing requirement.

There are some other iffy points as well.

The leaflet isn't bad (and yes it does mention the word 'socialist' once) but it could have been significantly better and there are parts of it open to the interpretation that some cuts are acceptable and some workers should be made pay for the crisis - even if that wasn't the intention.

I have no problem discussing left co-operation with anyone (the Socialist Party co-operate with people all the time) - but the basis on how that co-operation should take place has to be agreed by discussion - not the dictat of the SWP.

author by Stabilo Boss - PBPA - individualpublication date Fri Nov 27, 2009 10:43author address author phone Report this post to the editors

JRG, if you went through the works of Trotsky himself - looking, I put it to you, for wordings and possible ambiguities and things to disagree with - you would never adhere to him or his tradition.

Here are three Socialist Party leaflets from the 1999 local elections. Their broad SIMILARITY to some of the PBPA literature which Socialist Party members now hold up as reformist opportunism is STRIKING:


Those who do not want unity, or are holding back for when it is most advantagous to them, will always find reasons to overlook the essential agreemnent and find tertiary differences, even, yea, unto the citing of sub-editorial matters and gramatical looseness in leaflets.

author by Frank - Socialist Partypublication date Fri Nov 27, 2009 11:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

For a united stand of the left in the General Election

We need a new mass party of the working class:
The Socialist Party stands for the the building of a new mass party of the working class. Such a party could play a very important role in challenging the capitalist ideas and policies that are propagated by the main parties, including Labour. It could also play a vital role in challenging the right-wing trade union bureaucracy. Such a new party would help workers and communities to get organised and providing essential political representation. We recognise there will be different steps along the way to building of such a party.

Socialist Party propose discussions:
With that in mind the Socialist Party is inviting all left groups with elected representatives to get involved in discussions to see how we can progress co-operation amongst the left. Concretely, the Socialist Party is proposing that discussions take place as soon as possible, amongst the left on the proposal to form a left/socialist slate for the next General Election. A general election could happen at any time in the new year.

The Socialist Party hopes that from such discussions that a credible slate of left candidates can be established that would challenge all the main parties and by getting a number of TDs elected at the next general election, could begin building a new mass party in earnest.

The essential points that the Socialist Party believes are necessary to bring together such an electoral alliance for the General Election are:

1. That an alliance should have a programme that opposes the capitalist market and that members of the alliance are committed to oppose any deals at national or local level with right wing capitalist parties etc.

2. Each candidate’s campaign must have a real base to it – the existence of a strong campaign or issue and/or a credible record of struggle and campaigning by the candidate.

3. That decisions in the alliance should be arrived at by consensus and agreement after open and serious discussion regarding programme and candidates etc. and that the structures of any alliance must be fully democratic.

Debate and discussion needed to move forward:
The Socialist Party believes that there needs to be debate and discussion regarding all of these issues if we are able to establish genuine collaboration and an electoral alliance that can build upon the important gains for socialists and left candidates in the local and Euro elections.

We were disappointed that despite our proposal, that a slate of candidates was not agreed for the Local elections just gone. We hope this time that the SWP, the People Before Profit Alliance, and the Tipperary Workers and Unemployed Action Group will engage in a serious way with this proposal for left co-operation and a left/socialist alliance for the general election.

author by T O'Cpublication date Fri Nov 27, 2009 14:47author address author phone Report this post to the editors

...the Three Principles of the Socialist Party don't contain any reference to the use of the word "socialism", supposedly a major sticking point! I guess that's an olive branch of sorts.

author by Shindigpublication date Fri Nov 27, 2009 14:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Aside from the Socialist Party leaflets mentioned above, I came across this Socialist Labour Party leaflet on the IELB


‘..We would seek to avoid the isolation and impotence of many small political groupings on the Irish Left. Where we find ourselves in agreement with other parties -or people in no party- we attempt to work together..’

It just seems so simple...

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Fri Nov 27, 2009 15:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The leaflet you point to from the PBPA is one of the more radical leaflets I've seen from them, and that's to be welcomed. It is far from perfect, but it is better than I would generally expect.

It's worth noting though that its mention of "socialists" is not part of an argument for socialism or for a planned economy. Nor is it a description, on its own, of the PBPA itself. Instead, "socialists" are described merely as one component amongst a list of others of the PBPA. That is the same approach Respect took in Britain - not a socialist organisation, but an organisation with both socialists and others involved - and it is an approach that seems to me to be an unnecessary political concession. Yes, there are "environmentalists" or "community activists" in the PBPA, but they are pretty much to a man and woman also socialists - the distinction being drawn is intentional and misleading.

No doubt you'll think that this is nitpicking, but it isn't. A socialist organisation is quite a different thing from an organisation containing "socialists, group x, group y and group z". It is, to give concrete examples from across the water, the difference between the Socialist Alliance and Respect. And that's quite a substantial difference in presentation and in politics. People Before Profit was launched, by the SWP, at a time when the British SWP's Respect experiment looked like a success rather than an embarrassing disaster, and it was very clearly inspired by the Respect model.

You go on to talk about 90% agreement being enough to act upon. But we should be clear, while there may be "90% agreement" between the Socialist Party and most people within the PBPA, there is not 90% agreement between us and the PBPA as an organisation. This is for a simple and straightforward reason: the PBPA does not argue for a socialist transformation of society. That is the absolute core of our politics and any organisation which doesn't do that does not share "90% agreement" with us, even if we have 100% agreement on a whole range of conjunctural issues. Almost everyone in the PBPA, as an individual, or with a different organisational hat on, does share that with us but they deliberately and consciously duck that issue when it comes to the PBPA. As I've said repeatedly, we think that's an entirely unnecessary and self-inflicted political weakness and it is one that we have no intention of encouraging or accepting ourselves.

It is worth noting that the SWP are much more upfront about their views of the PBPA then you are. And we should be clear that as the people who set up the PBPA and the overwhelmingly dominant force within it, that their vision of the role and politics of the alliance carries rather more weight than yours. As I understand it, independent members of the PBPA at the SWP's Marxism event argued for quite a different version of the PBPA, one that is socialist, has functioning structures, would have its own publication and would move towards being a party. Again, as I understand it, the SWP opposed them on these issues. They were quite clear that they think that a commitment to socialism and class politics would "narrow" the PBPA and they were similarly clear that the SWP is the party and the PBPA a looser body than that. I don't think it's at all unreasonable to assume that they, as the architects of and driving force in, the PBPA have a more accurate understanding of its nature and role than you seem to.

You go on to talk about "people who don't really want unity finding excuses". Again, as you are aware, the only concrete proposals for an alliance of the left so far were made by the Socialist Party and the people "finding excuses" were the PBPA and SWP. Had they taken a more serious approach to our proposals, or made serious proposals of their own, this whole process could now be more advanced. Once again, the Socialist Party have made positive proposals about an alliance for the next elections. We will see how the PBPA and others react.

We are not at all interested in apolitical chatter about "unity" for the sake of unity. We do not share the SWP's typically over-heated perspective that we now have in front of us a very narrow window of opportunity and that serious political discussion is dangerous timewasting (they have, if you look at their various "open letters" been saying something along those lines for 7 or 8 years now. The only thing that has changed is the degree of hysteria). We think that the crisis we are entering into is likely to be a prolonged one and that the creation of a mass party of the working class will itself be a process that will take time.

We are entirely willing to discuss working together, but that means having serious discussions about the political and organisational basis for an alliance. We do not think that conditions are right for a new party at this point, but we do think that the conditions are opening up enough to make an alliance, a sort of intermediary formation, useful in a way that it would not have been a few years ago. We think that the politics of such an alliance should reflect the "90% agreement" that we actually have with people involved in PBPA rather than the unnecessary concessions those people have made in their work as PBPA - that is, it should be socialist. We think that the organisational form of such an alliance should reflect the position we are in now, the beginning of a process of realignment rather than its final expression.

If the SWP and the other people in the PBPA are serious about "unity", they will engage with us on this sort of basis rather than churning out hysterical calls for unity now, on their terms, with no serious discussion about organisation or politics.

Shindig's comment about the Socialist Labour Party - another disastrous experience of ill-thought out, over-hasty and politically ill-conceived "unity" - should serve to concentrate minds. We should learn from the experiences of the SLP and Respect and not doggedly insist on repeating the same mistakes.

author by Stabilo Boss - PBPA - individualpublication date Fri Nov 27, 2009 18:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thanks for posting that Frank. It is about time that we stood back from this thread and focused on the the postive development, in my own view, which was the leaflet distribted by the Socialist Party at the SWP's 'Marxism 2009' weekend. And better to focus on the leaflet for the minute and not what happened or did not happen at the meetings or the doors even.

Though the distributors of the leaflet themselves may not agree, preferrring to stress continuity of substance over change of style, the tone is a great advance and leaves out all the unnecessary attacks on the SWP. The essential points of the Socialist Party's proposed basis of agreement for an electoral slate (a political alliance or new workers' party stay on other paper) remain the same - though how essentials are couched is always an earnest of serious intent:

1. That an alliance should have a programme that opposes the capitalist market and that members of the alliance are committed to oppose any deals at national or local level with right wing capitalist parties etc.

2. Each candidate’s campaign must have a real base to it – the existence of a strong campaign or issue and/or a credible record of struggle and campaigning by the candidate.

3. That decisions in the alliance should be arrived at by consensus and agreement after open and serious discussion regarding programme and candidates etc. and that the structures of any alliance must be fully democratic.

These are far from insurmountable, and were previously too IMHO. Interpreted through the eyes of good will all round they are unremarkable and obvious ways to proceed. Until point three appears as a veto by one organisation on the other organsation's candidates - though the quality of candidates or the tactics of standing are issues on all sides of the field: for example in Belfast. But unviable ultimatums can be avoided and the spirit of this latest statement is in accord with such an approach.

Point one should not present a problem at all. No problemo.

Point two makes common sense, though not everyone will have the same idea of what constitutes common sense. Combined with Point three and the intention to insist on a veto rather than give and take, both points merge into the one preordained collapse.

But in this case (a general election) Point two should not present a problem either. No problemo. Who are the candidates likely to be fielded by the PBPA? RBB and Joan Collins. And Seamus in the evitable (not inevitable) event that he is in, or in alliance with, the PBPA. Maybe one or - stretch - two or - streeeetch - three others might emerge as runners. Stretching it? Well after the obvious list of Joe, Clare and Mick Barry are tabled by the Socialist Party you can see a temptation to stretch it there too to another couple of good if not certain candidates. Good votes as well as seats should be a criteria. Yes/no?

Of course "the structures of any alliance must be fully democratic". Even wheeler-dealers would say this, but it needs to be said. There are practical problems, however, about how an alliance of organisations can have democratic structures or take majority decisions; and how alliances of organisations can integrate the sympathetic individuals who will want to participate. What constitutes democracy in an alliance where the decision makers are delegated from groups, and of groups of different size if the platform expands? There can only be, in such an electoral slate, discussion and agreement, give and take, cop on, goodwill and agreement to disagree.

If the three conditions are laid down to cut agreement off at the pass they need not do so. There is nothing essentially out of court there and given good will and seriousness by the left OUTSIDE the Socialist Party, there is nothing that any half decent shop steward could not negotiate a way through to a decent settlement.

Time for a little more talk I think. On the three points and not on the extraneous and infinitely expandable points of difference raised in threads like these.

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Fri Nov 27, 2009 19:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Well, Stabilo, I of course agree that the Socialist Party's proposals are positive and point towards a potential way forward. I also agree that there is no reason why any of the three points should inevitably pose a problem to people approaching discussions with even a modicum of good will.

However, in practice I'm not sure that they will be accepted. My understanding of the SWP's attitude at the moment is that they are very reluctant to adopt even a minimal socialist programme - that is a programme explicitly including the ending of the market system. It may be that, if the other people in the PBPA add their voices strongly on this issue that they will concede on it, but they give the impression that they are strongly committed to having a more watery political approach at this point.

As far as candidates are concerned, any alliance will have to have a way of deciding where to stand and who to stand there. In the local elections there were six or seven wards where left groups or individuals stood against each other. There is also a broader point about how broadly to stand. You identify, reasonably enough, six constituencies where there are strong left candidates and then talk about choosing a relatively small number of others, where everyone agrees that there is a real basis to run a credible campaign. That's the sort of approach that I would favour too, but my understanding is that the SWP want the PBPA to stand as broadly as possible, in keeping with their quite hysterical assessment of the current situation.

That was certainly the line they were arguing at Marxism and, as I understand it, one of their leading figures suggested to a public meeting of less than a dozen in a city where there is no PBPA branch recently that someone in the audience might consider standing. The Socialist Party think that sort of behaviour is (a) a waste of resources and (b) damages the credibility of an organisation or alliance. It was the sort of thing that led to the SWP standing a candidate who got 7 votes in 2004, and this time their perspective is even more hyped up. The problem isn't just that they may insist on trying to foist electorally weak candidates onto an alliance, but that they may want to push politically weak candidates onto it too. They have been unrelenting in their courtship of councillors coming out of the mainstream parties and it isn't clear that all of these people have broken entirely with the politics of coalition or are committed to building a socialist alternative.

The Socialist Party is entirely willing, just as it was before the local elections, to allow for negotiation and some give and take on these sort of issues, but that's quite different to allowing the SWP to give a blanket endorsement from us to anyone they can scrape up regardless of our actual views. An alliance which leaves that sort of thing up to trust is an alliance that will run out of trust very quickly.

I do think that it is possible for an alliance to be formed and I think that there is a good chance that one will be. The Socialist Party is entirely serious about its proposals and will give a hearing to serious counter-proposals. But we have political and organisational bottom lines and it remains to be seen if the SWP or PBPA are thinking in the same terms.

author by Jolly Red Giant - Socialist Party / CWIpublication date Fri Nov 27, 2009 23:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Stabilo said -

"Here are three Socialist Party leaflets from the 1999 local elections. Their broad SIMILARITY to some of the PBPA literature which Socialist Party members now hold up as reformist opportunism is STRIKING:"

Just a brief comment on this one - the leaflet shown on the blog are one page of a two page leaflet - you may consider that the page shown is STRIKING in it's similarity with the PBP leaflet - the second page would have been STRIKING in its difference.

for comparison I suggest you look at a recent local election leaflet -


Note in particular the reference on page 2 to the committment not to be part of any 'big business government' and the reference at the end of page 3 opposing the capitalism market and the need for socialism and a democratic socialist plan for the economy.

author by JP - real world incpublication date Sat Nov 28, 2009 00:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Come on guys- really this is verging on 'mines bigger than yours' caper.
There's a big bad world out there (strikes, massive protests) and you are fighting over semantics?

Left Unity- big hill- get over it.

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Sat Nov 28, 2009 03:49author address author phone Report this post to the editors

JP, let me refer you to my modest proposal.

author by Stabillo Boss - PBPA - individualpublication date Mon Nov 30, 2009 11:52author address author phone Report this post to the editors

JRG, your point about the backsides (sorry!) of the leaflets is fair comment. It is a fault of a very good site that they do not put up the complete leaflets. Very necessary for an archive. See, I'm being mislead already. Maybe someone might put the backside up for us. (Sorry again!!)

Mark says that practically it might not be as easy as I suggest to find agreement on the three essential points because the SWP would be very reluctant to adopt “a programme explicitly including the ENDING of the market system” (my emphasis).

The progress made was in the tenor of the latest statement from the Socialist Party, but the real viability of an electoral alliance is, I suggested, in the workability of the (unchanged) three essential points of the Socialist Party for an alliance.

The first point is actually:

“1. That an alliance should have a programme that OPPOSES the capitalist market and that members of the alliance are committed to oppose any deals at national or local level with right wing capitalist parties etc (my emphasis)”.

Not, that is, Mark's interpretation, of “a programme explicitly including the ENDING of the market system” (my emphasis). Apparently, the practical difficulties of gaining agreement would not be all on one side! My optimism about gaining an agreement on the first of the three points was based on the effect produced by Bríd Smith's annunciation of the PBPA's policy platform at Marxism 2009 and by how RADICALLY it came across on another hearing.

JP, your exasperated comment about 'mine is bigger than yours' is perfectly understandable and applicable to a lot of what goes on here. Sorry if I fell into it, but my intention is not to, for instance, claim that the SWP is better than the SP but to point out how SIMILAR they are. So when SP members says the SWP are soft on the Labour Party I point the actual record of the SP in relation to the LP, when SP members say the SWP stand losers I point to the actual election results of both parties and when SP members say the SWP are diluting their politics in broad alliances I point to how the SP and their international counterparts actually reach out to wider forces through the programme of the Campaign for a New Workers Party in Britain, or No2EU, for instance, or participation in Die Linke (Germany). It is not 'mine is bigger then yours' but 'you have one too'. But the use of tit for tat (to transgender the metaphors) on Indymedia has probably reached the end of it usefulness. I'll give it up for Advent.

author by Mark P - Socialist Party (personal capacity)publication date Mon Nov 30, 2009 14:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Far from thinking that the programme so lengthily read out by Brid sounded "so radical", I thought it sounded like an incoherent shopping list of reforms. I think we can do better than that, primarily by putting our demands in the context of truly radical, socialist, change. Brid of course thinks that too, when she has her SWP hat on. It's just that when it comes to elections and alliances and the like, some of our socialists prefer to hide those views.

As I've said to you repeatedly in this discussion, the Socialist Party's view is not that it is wrong in all circumstances to enter an alliance or broad party with weaker politics. It is that in our circumstances - circumstances where all of the substantial forces potentially involved in an alliance are self-described socialists - there is no reason for us to do so. There is absolute no reason - beyond the SWP's opportunism - an alliance of the left could not be socialist.

The odd point about this is that from time to time you seem to agree with me on this particular point! It's just that you then immediately go back to trying to fudge distinctions and blur lines.

By the way, I am unaware of any Socialist Party member saying that the "SWP stand losers" in elections. That term was used by an anonymous person on this thread and not by me or any other self-identified member of the Socialist Party. What we have said is that the SWP has a record of standing people where there is no viable basis for standing. See for instance the people they stood in 2004 who received 6 and 27 votes respectively. A second, and perhaps more important, consideration is that they have been courting prospective allies who have a rather mixed record on issues of coalition and cuts. These issues could, potentially, cause serious problems for an alliance.

The Socialist Party is not of the view that anyone who has voted for coalition with the right wing parties is forever an untouchable but we are of the view that anyone who wants to be included in an alliance now should be very clear about the complete and total unacceptability of entering into such coalitions, voting for local service taxes or voting for cuts. That's not something we are willing to compromise on at all.

We would also be concerned about things like a leading SWP member trying to find a candidate by asking the small crowd at a public meeting in a city where the PBPA has no organisation. That is not a serious way to go about building an organisation. The line they were arguing at Marxism was that the PBPA should stand as widely as possible and should try to find as many candidates as possible. This was premised on a quite hysterical perspective of great social change within 2 years and a mad hurry to take advantage of a very narrow window of opportunity. If you took your own politics and organisation seriously you would be concerned about this sort of thing too.

I realise that "left unity" sounds all very nice, much like apple pie, kittens and sunshine, but in fact "left unity" which isn't based on solid political and organisational agreement can be an absolute disaster. Respect, the model for the People Before Profit Alliance, is the clearest example of this we could wish for. I don't think that we should repeat that sort of mistake.

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