The deep unpopularity of the government showed itself in an overwhelming vote against them in last week’s European and local elections.
Fianna Fail’s vote fell to 25% and its Green Party coalition partner to just 3%. The Greens lost all of their local and county council seats in Dublin, its previous stronghold. The results have thrown the government into crisis with a motion of no confidence currently being debated in the Dail.
But good as it is to see the collapse of their vote, even more heartening have been the number of left-wing candidates elected. Chief among these was the election of the Socialist Party’s Joe Higgins to the European parliament for Dublin. Unseating Fianna Fail’s Eoin Ryan, his election caused shock and upset for many of the bourgeoisie. The Mayor of Dublin, Eibhlin Byrne expressed her concern about the impact on Dublin of Higgins going to Europe with an “anti business message”.
In his victory speech Higgins made a commitment to receive the wage of an average skilled worker and donate the rest to working class organisations in Dublin. He also promised to be a thorn in the side of the ruling elite. As far as he was concerned, his mandate came from the working class and nobody else.
The Socialist Party retained their current council seats in the Dublin area and gained two further seats outside of Dublin, with a number of their candidates topping the polls.
The SWP’s People before Profit Alliance also made a breakthrough, gaining five council seats in the Dublin area. The Workers Party won two council seats and a group called The Workers and Unemployed Action Group gained 43% of first preference votes and overall control of Clonmel Town Council.
With some exceptions it seems that wherever the left stood it was supported with enthusiasm. The opportunities to make headway are obvious. But numerical weakness and political confusion remain serious obstacles. The way forward must be unity around a revolutionary programme. Without this the current upsurge in support for the left could be squandered. We need only look across the water to the debacles of Respect and No2EU to see the results of lowest common denominator unity.
The SWP issued a statement making clear that the “radical left must now enter discussions to form either an alliance or broad radical left party, where different tendencies can co-exist. Previous arguments that such a development might be ‘premature’ make little sense today.”(www.swp.ie). They propose the adoption of the People before Profit model. But while the call for unity is welcome and needs to be built on, the basis of such a project should not be a fudge. The working class throughout Ireland is already painfully aware of the problems of capitalism. What they need is Marxism, not radicalism.
There is a danger that sections of the left will push for unity with the Labour Party. But the Labour Party does not even pretend to be socialist. It is more interested in forming a coalition for government with Fine Gael, the main centre right opposition party.
As of today the Socialist Party has not responded to the call for unity. They have announced that they are currently considering the new circumstances and will respond soon. But there is great pressure to form a more cohesive and ambitious left. The opening up of a debate and struggle around the formation of a party is to be warmly welcomed. All working class militants must encourage and take part in this development.