July 2013        

What’s “left” for Ireland?


Ever since I got involved in politics and political activism (and I’m relatively new to the game) there was always this repeated call for uniting every section of the left political spectrum, including the CPI. In my opinion this is a worn-out phrase that frankly has been hollowed out by crass opportunism, careerism, and sectarian politics.
     We can surely admit that the economic foundations of capitalism have been shaken; but the political structure remains intact. So while some parties and groups on the left cry out for the left to unite on the one hand, on the other hand they jump on whatever campaign is the flavour of the month to get their banner shown, to create a presence, or even to take over a campaign.
     More often than not campaigns have failed because of a disjointed left opposition, leaving ordinary people disillusioned. What remains now, for example, of the United Left Alliance, or the household charge campaign?
     The argument has been put to me as a CPI member that is it not better to be involved directly in a campaign such as the household charge, the sale of our forests, or the campaign against water charges, to name but a few, so that they can be influenced?
     Supporting campaigns is all well and good, but it needs to be backed up by an overall strategy. Any person who is a member of a party should always question and debate tactics and strategies. The way I see it, and I don’t think I’m alone in this, waiting on the next big story to break—the Anglo tapes, for example—or the next campaign to develop to show your revolutionary anger at the corrupt capitalist system and wave your party colours has little to do with revolutionary theory and a lot to do with opportunism and electoral manoeuvring.
     It’s time for those who have a genuine interest in left-wing politics to mature and to leave behind this romantic notion of immediate revolution and a workers’ paradise. The last time a revolutionary situation existed in Ireland we were left with our leaders and the greatest Irish Marxist being executed, and following that a bloody civil war and a counter-revolutionary victory. So before we go calling for revolution let’s first of all try to create revolutionary conditions, preferably conditions that strengthen the hand of labour, that will not see the blood of our class and our allies being spilled in their hundreds or thousands!
     Jumping on the next bandwagon or calling for a revolution will not create those conditions; it won’t better the living conditions, tackle the rate of unemployment, emigration or the lack of jobs, and it might not succeed in victory even for the isolated campaign being mounted, again leaving the working class and its allies beaten and disillusioned.
     Now is the time to develop tactics and strategies that hit at the system at its weakest point and that have the greatest potential to transform not only the economy but the class-consciousness of the working class and its allies.
     The weak link in the capitalist chain, as the CPI and contributors to Socialist Voice have continuously argued, is the odious corporate debt and the demand for for its rejection or repudiation.
     It was immediately after the bank guarantee of 2008 that the McCarthy Report was published. In this document lay the saving and the austerity measures the state has been undertaking and that it plans to oversee. People should not be surprised that our forests were to be sold off, that other state assets will be put up for sale, or that public services are to be scaled back or privatised. All these plans and austerity measures were laid out back in 2009 and are being introduced piecemeal so as to distract people, to divide people, and to stop any united opposition against the state and the internal troika of Fine Gael, the Labour Party, and Fianna Fáil. So far this plan has been succeeding. (And they say central planning doesn’t work!)
     From the outset of the crisis the CPI has made it clear that the source of austerity is the debt. Austerity measures have been used by the ruling class to protect the ruling class. So, tackling the issue of the debt will, by extension, tackle austerity. But it will also bring you into direct conflict with the EU and its class character and imperialist nature; this cannot be avoided. From this position, with the debt front and centre, a single anti-austerity campaign could find resonance with another single anti-privatisation campaign, and so on. On this basis a common platform in building a people’s resistance against debt and austerity could consciously be built, which of course the CPI would gladly be part of, along with any other group that would seriously tackle this crisis of capitalism.
     This is not just calling on the “left” to unite (as the left—whatever that is—would still be in the minority!) but more importantly is calling on class forces to unite and to build alliances.
     These are tactics and strategies that seek to educate and build class-consciousness in order to make transformative demands, such as the establishment of a state bank, establishing controls on capital, abandoning the euro, increasing the tax on capital, business, and wealth, planning economic development and reducing the role of the market as a determining force, the nationalisation of oil, gas, and our seas, and the development of renewable energy sources and reducing dependence on non-renewable energy.
     If these were to become popular alternative demands that people backed, we might then have revolutionary conditions in which we could be in a position to call for revolution.
     Our political forces need to mature into representatives of their class. Tackling the EU or other imperialist centres, such as the United States or Britain, on this basis will not be welcomed by a broad section of established bodies, which have for too long been feeding on the safe bosom of imperialism, no matter what the consequences are or have been for the Irish people.
     Those who label themselves as “left” or “socialist” but curse at the label of “communist” need to think long and hard about their class allegiance. People who describe themselves as communist do so in such a way as to leave no ambiguity about their goals, their beliefs, or their intentions: to oversee the overthrow of the capitalist system by the majority of the population, the under-class, the wage labourers, the small to medium farmers, the small to medium businesses, and to replace it with a planned economic system that is geared towards the needs and fulfilment of human beings and the environment in which we live.
     But those who wouldn’t dare see themselves labelled as a communist, only as a “socialist,” I believe have their goals, their beliefs, their intentions masked, or maybe even their ideology skewed, or perhaps are just plain confused about what or who to believe. They will eloquently cite references from Marx and the odd bit of Lenin and peddle Trotsky to entice an audience. They’ll speak of “real” workers’ power, of “21st-century socialism” and of “revolution.” But they will deny the achievements and advancement of socialist construction in the twentieth century and will use the biggest straw-man argument in recent history in order to avoid real debate. They vociferously support every revolution—except, of course, the ones that succeed!
     But this is no surprise, for those on the “left” who are still captured by the illusion of a utopian workers’ society after the not-so-distant revolution, or those who seem to believe that capitalism can be run for people and not profit, or those who see personal benefit in the maintenance of bourgeois democracy and the salaries of professional politics and yet maintain their socialist or left-wing values, do indeed conceal the fact that under this cloak they are not wearing any clothes.
     So what’s left for Ireland? Maybe instead of all this talk of the need for the left to unite we could concentrate on the necessity of class forces to unite on a common platform of repudiation of the debt and austerity that takes their class position in society into consideration over capital, its owners, and its allies, whatever political manifestation the ruling class takes—be it the internal troika, the EU, the United States, Britain, the G8, NATO, etc. We then might be able to gain some ground, not in labels but in bringing about real transformative change, building working-class unity, and to struggle for the overthrow of capitalism and its replacement with the only humane alternative: socialism.
[EON]

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