Independent socialists and the local elections

 For independent socialists in the run-up to the local elections there are a couple of different options available to us to tie in with other groups. There are the remnants of the ULA still looking for a home, there was some movement towards developing a party under the banner United Left, with Clare Daly & Joan Collins and a couple of Councillors. There was some discussion around the rudiments of a programme some months ago. Unfortunately this seems to be still born, as there doesn’t seem to have been much progress over the last couple of months. Considering the lack of apparent movement (there may be something happening behind the scenes I’m not aware of but it’s doubtful), there doesn’t seem to be much drive behind the organisation.

The other development seems to be more interesting and probably has the most potential at this stage. There are a number of caveats attached to this potential however. For instance because it was started by academics there is naturally an academic-heavy make up to the people who’ve been attending the Left Forum meetings. That being said, as it attracts more towards it, we should see the base broadening out to include a wider variety of people. We are already beginning to see this happening, and should these difficulties be overcome, then the Left Forum could be a successful endeavour.

The first thing that should be noted is that LF is not a party, and it’s not likely to become a party before the local elections. In fact it’s not even certain what LF will be, if anything. There needs to be a serious ongoing debate about the nature of the Forum, and it’s vitally important that this isn’t rushed into just to have a slate of candidates for the local elections next year. This would in the long term be counter-productive to the best interests of developing the left in Ireland. There will of course be people associated with LF contesting the locals (there will also be other slates of non-LF candidates), but not under a Left Forum banner.

  It’s clear there are going to be a lot of left-wing candidates standing in the local elections. Some of those will be standing under the SP’s newly formed Anti-Austerity Alliance (this is largely made up of SP members and those members of CAHWT who stuck with the SP line), others will stand as PBPA which launched a recruitment drive some months ago. Others however will be standing as independents. It is these independents that need to be brought together under a banner after the elections. There is neither the time nor the funding needed to unite them before the locals and to field them as candidates.

 I know this is a bit like putting the cart before the horse, but unfortunately its unavoidable considering the timescale we have to work with. We can’t simply thrash out a unity programme ahead of the elections as this will naturally be a ‘lowest common denominator’ programme that everybody is somewhat happy with, and a lot unhappy with. If the programme is rushed it will have no proper grounding, people won’t feel properly connected to it and will be more willing to walk away as they’ll feel no real ownership of it. The left in Ireland is already in a sorry state without us adding to and compounding that.

 It is increasingly obvious that the left is not going to come out of this crisis with any substantial gains. Despite the frantic level of activity over the last couple of years we still failed to prevent Haddington Road, the Property Tax or any of the other austerity measures being foisted on us as the wealthy close ranks and protect their class interests. The best we can hope for now is to slow down the rate of attrition on our social services and the attacks on the working class.

 Despite the impact of one of the most serious crises of capitalism in decades, the left have not been able to convince people that capitalism is the crisis. We are nowhere near having the mass understanding of capitalism and the infrastructure necessary to bring about a revolutionary situation. Such is the right-wing nature of our society at this time that modern social democracy seems radical! We are currently in some sort of pre-pre-pre-pre-pre-revolutionary stage. Unfortunately it seems the populist right, in the form of Direct Democracy Ireland and their fellow travellers, have become increasingly visible during this crisis, presenting a new challenge to those of us on the socialist left. Their confidence is up after Ben Gilroy’s relatively strong showing in the Meath East by-election. However none of the other members of DDI have Gilroy’s high profile, they’re relatively unknown in their communities, so it’s difficult to see them doing as well in the locals.

 But it’s not been entirely negative for us either. There are still pools of activists that came from CAHWT (and other campaigns) looking to start something progressive, many of those weren’t active before the Household Tax. Most of those ex-CAHWT standing as independents are bringing with them a body of people who are supporting them in their election campaigns. These local groups are in essence nascent branches, and if the more progressive of them could be brought together (again) under a socialist banner they would make a potent force.

 Of course if this is to develop into a potent working class movement it needs to develop in its own time, and without outside influences. Some have called for a broad slate of left candidates including the SP & SWP. I think this is a mistake. I think that any electoral compact with two well established parties by an emerging group of independents will automatically see the established groups dominate. I know this is only a slate and not an alliance like the ULA, but in my opinion the same principle applies. We would be seen as being similar to the established parties when we should be trying to make our own way and show we are different to them. We need to be separate from the others in order to not be swamped by them. It should also be noted that those ex-CAHWT groups that are fielding independent candidates have already rejected the SPs approach. Besides the SP & SWP have their broad slates with AAA & PBPA respectively, why would they bother adding independents they’re not particularly fond of?

 Of course what all of this means is that we should be following two somewhat contradictory courses. We need  concentrated short term activity to get those independent left wing candidates elected in the locals. And we need to engage seriously with the longer term process of developing the Left Forum, or whatever comes from it, into a potent force that can offer a serious alternative.

 Now we just have to come up with a programme……….

7 responses to “Independent socialists and the local elections”

  1. Des Derwin says :

    This is interesting stuff. Keep it up.

  2. Tawdy says :

    The key, it seems to me, is that people, a lot of people, feel that they have been left down so many times by all political groupings.

    While I acknowledge that it is an uphill struggle their trust, faith and the power of their consent has to be won on a daily basis. To attain that, well, showing the way is good, living the way is even better.

    Always keeping in mind that if you falter you will lose the power of consent of the people you need at election time.

    That being said, the left candidates would need to shout out very loudly their credentials. Where they stand and for whom, the small battles first with an eye to the major ones.

    Trust, Faith, Power of Consent.

    All of that has to be earned over time, regardless of the setbacks.

  3. irishmarxism says :

    Welcome the blogosphere comradezhenka!

    When I saw the title of your first post I have to admit to being more than a little disappointed – another initiative that focuses on elections right from the start I thought. This inevitably invites opportunism and electoralism and, as you so rightly point out, a mad rush to a programme than most no longer even think about the meaning of.

    In my own blog I analysed one such recent initiative you mention here:

    http://irishmarxism.net/2013/07/27/a-new-left-electoral-campaign-in-limerick/

    I was therefore pleased that you offer sound advice not to scramble to stand in elections and argue the need to unite under a socialist banner. Whether anyone should get out to attempt to elect any particular left wing candidate I have reflected on in the post above. I have to admit I dislike the way the word ‘left’ is used in Ireland to cover a multitude of political positions which should not be united.

    Your final point is the most important – the need to come up with a programme. In other words the need to accept what we are fighting for, and not just against, and how we should fight for it.

    In my view this means developing a specifically revolutionary socialist programme in a situation which I agree is definitely not revolutionary. This comes down to understanding that working class politics, that is Marxist politics, can be revolutionary even in today’s conditions. What this means and how it is expressed is the theme to my own endeavours and I have severely criticised the ULA approach on this basis.

    I look forward to future posts – I know how difficult it is to keep a blog going so good luck.

    • Tawdy says :

      can you explain this in concise English please.

      • irishmarxism says :

        I’m sorry, but I’m not sure exactly what part you want explained but here goes.

        In my view revolutionary politics is the growth and development of the independent power of the working class. It is revolutionary because by its nature, as a class completely divorced from ownership of the means of production, its growing power necessarily encroaches and threatens the rule of the class which has a monopoly of ownership of the means of production – the capitalist class.

        What this means in practice is, for example, workers winning democratic control of their trade unions from self-perpetuating bureaucrats so that they become instruments to defend themselves against everyday attacks.

        It means creation of a working class party that identifies the class interests in society and rejects, for example, nationalist solutions that assume that everyone who is Irish has some common interest that over-rides all others. So such a party would reject blaming foreign workers for low wages but instead blame the capitalists who pay the low wages.

        It means workers setting up their own cooperative ownership of factories etc. so that they realise they don’t need capitalists or their managers, that they can gain experience of running a small part of society, that they can more easily see the need for the whole economy to be owned by the workers and they can see the true role of the state that will oppose them.

        This is opposed to the view that socialism is asking the state to tax the rich and take over ownership of factories to give workers secure employment and decent wages. It is opposed to the view that particular policies, if implemented by the state, are the solution (while of course recognising that some are worse than others).

        It is opposed to the view that we can get elected to Government and use the capitalist state to do the above as if the state were some neutral instrument that can be wielded for good or evil.

        It is the view that the culmination of this growing power of the working class is it taking over the running of society altogether such that there is no need for a capitalist state which should be destroyed because it will try to prevent the working class achieving its aims. This is called revolution.

        Whether a political practice is revolutionary or not is not dependent on how much it can achieve but what it seeks to achieve. That means that even in circumstances where revolution is not possible it is possible to have revolutionary politics.

        Hope this goes some way to explaining what I meant.

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. A new independent left blog | The Cedar Lounge Revolution - September 19, 2013
  2. Russell Brand and Revolution | Sráid Marx - November 6, 2013

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: