September 2012        

Time for Labour to come out of the closet

“The Revolution will not be televised. The Revolution will be no re-run, brothers: the Revolution will be live”—Gil Scott-Heron.
Yahoo recently reported that the Tánaiste, Éamon Gilmore, is backing gay marriage, having claimed that the time had come for society to recognise “the civil rights issue of this generation.” Yahoo for him!
     It is certainly a laudable position to hold—regardless of the spurious claims of a number of commentators who have highlighted the vote-getting potential of such a statement.
     But Gilmore’s slightly exaggerated claim that it is the “civil rights issue of this generation,” coupled with the fact that without Fine Gael backing it becomes another piece of meaningless rhetoric, will do little to advance what is without doubt an important civil right.
     It appears that this government’s right wing in Fine Gael is consistently able to second-guess and outsmart its so-called left wing in the Labour Party.
     When will Labour finally realise the utter folly of its arranged marriage with conservatism and “come proudly out of the closet” to pursue policies that protect working people, families on low and middle incomes, and those who are most vulnerable in our society? The answer may well be, When it is too late for the Labour Party—and too late for society.
     It is interesting to note that a grouping of “grassroots” Labour Party members have started campaigning around an alternative political programme to that being pursued by the government. Their own party! They seem determined to fight for a political party serving and meeting the needs of “ordinary people.” Remember, their own party!
     They declare that austerity is not working and austerity policies have failed and will fail in the future and will continue to be resisted by the campaign group within—yes, you’ve guessed it: their own party!
     Forgive the cynicism, but a group of well-meaning but disillusioned “grassroots” campaigners fighting for, in their words, “job creation, income equality, the protection of services and dealing with the onerous bank debt” sounds like a reasonable Labour Party manifesto to me.
     They might well succeed in ruffling a few feathers and in giving the party’s leadership some food for thought. However, the regrettable decision taken by Gilmore et al. to ditch principles in a futile attempt to curtail the excesses of Fine Gael by joining them in government now means that any change in current Labour policy will require fundamental and wholesale changes in leadership, which—based on current party structures and hierarchy—is highly unlikely at this time.
     Nevertheless, you could point out that Batista’s rule was smashed by as few as eighty comrades who reached the shores of Cuba in the Granma in 1956—only twenty of whom survived to make it into the Sierra Maestra and later change history. Revolution happens in the strangest of circumstances and from the smallest of acorns. Take heed, Tánaiste!
     On a related note, you may have seen the Youtube video that went viral of our president, Michael D. Higgins, berating the American talk-show host Michael Graham, a supporter of the Tea Party.
     In a heated exchange, Michael D told Graham to “be proud to be a decent American rather than being just a w***er whipping up fear.” President Higgins’s attack on the rhetoric used by the Tea Party on a range of issues, from health care to foreign policy, could serve as a useful reminder to Éamon Gilmore, his own former party leader, that “whipping up fear” and dishing out pain is certainly not the sole preserve of the lunatic right in the United States.
     The Labour Party was founded by Connolly and Larkin, and surely that stands for something more than just empty rhetoric.
     Perhaps Mr Gilmore could ignore a recent critic of our President’s fine collection of poetry, who rather cruelly called it “a crime against literature,” and take some inspiration from our presidential viral legend and start reciting the Michael D rap in the mirror every morning:
     “Don’t be just a w***er whipping up fear, I must fight for the people that put me here. It’s not a country run by the Troika, so time to put our Labour house in order. Don’t be just a w***er whipping up fear, I must fight for the people that put me here, before they realise, cop on, and kick me out on my ear.”

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