Sunday, June 14, 2009

Socialist Party does not look like it is interested in unity

Checking out the SP website it looks as though they are simply intent on pushing their own party. Maybe there are discussions going on in the background but the official line is 'build the socialist alternative - join the socialist party'!


  1. Why would it be in any way surprising that the Socialist Party would have a recruitment appeal on their website at a time when they are receiving massive amounts of publicity? That just seems like basic common sense to me.

    As for the issue of "unity", the term doesn't mean much in and of itself. You have unity of particular forces for particular ends on a particular basis. One of the problems of the Irish left at the moment is that the term is being thrown out without its content being made clear. The Socialist Party is in favour of a new party of the working class, but that doesn't mean that it is in favour of all and every set of proposals for "unity". There are important differences between the approach of the Socialist Party and that of the People Before Profit Alliance, which would presumably be the organisation you want to see "unity" with. PBPA does not run campaigns which are explicitly socialist or explicitly based on class politics and it currently seems to be looking towards ex-members of Labour or the Greens for "unity" - that is it's facing in a rather different direction than the SP.

    By the way, I'm curious as to whether or not you followed the CPGB's approach of contacting left candidates and demanding to know what their position is on the vital question of forming workers defence guards? My understanding is that the CPGB decided to call for a vote for Labour after left candidate in the British Euro election proved themselves to be insufficiently crazed for their tastes. Did this same approach apply in Ireland?

  2. Firstly my call for unity, as it states on the blog heading is based on revolutionary principles. I do not want some sort of lowest common denominator coalition. I am well aware of the People before Profit failings and you are right that they do not even put forward socialist demands. I think we need a working class party based on marxist principles now. The Socialist Party can take an important lead in that struggle. The election of Joe Higgins opens up a national space for this. I do not have a problem with you promoting your group. But I think it is more important to seize the opportunity to build a working class revolutionary party now. Capitalism obviously does not work. People can clearly see that and are voting for the left.

    On the CPGB's tactics, I have no problem with the call for workers defence - that is a basic democratic principle and I have in fact stood on that demand in elections on many occasions. For socialists it should not cause a problem. What would you call for in Iran now? Obviously arm the working class against the state forces to defend themselves. And if they had already been organised in that way they would not be such victims of the state violence. Anne

  3. Firstly, I have no reason to doubt your claim that, when you stood for election for the CPGB/Weekly Worker, you stood on a daft programme completely divorced from the experience, concerns and consciousness of the working class. In fact I'd tend to take that for granted. The part that confuses me is that even the CPGB/WW would decide to make such a bizarre call into a litmus test when it came to supporting left wing candidates. Particularly given that after ruling out a vote for any left wing candidate on the basis that they wouldn't sign up to your pet demand, your grouplet then called for a vote for Labour candidates even though none of the Labour Party's candidates had signed up to the demand either.

    Did you make a similar round of calls and emails to left candidates in Ireland, demanding that they sign up to workers defence guards if you were going to support them? Or does this litmus test only apply in Britain, while in Ireland it's fine to support candidates who don't pass it?

    Now getting back to serious matters (ie away from the doctrinal peculiarities of a group of two dozen)... I think that you may be overestimating the significance of the welcome step forward for the left in these elections. The left jumped forward in the number of council positions it holds quite considerably, but the increase in the actual vote in the council elections, although real, was more modest.

    Joe Higgins' vote was a substantial increase, but a lot of those votes realistically were for him as a "class fighter", someone who is honest and speaks up for working class interests rather than votes for socialism. Now I don't want to overstate that. Joe has consistently argued for socialism, for a democratic plan of production and so on, all over the media so nobody was voting for him in ignorance of his political programme (unlike certain other candidates of the left), but we still shouldn't get carried away.

    The Socialist Party is in favour of a new mass party of the working class, but there is no evidence that an attempt to launch such a party would be viable in the short term. That does not rule out cooperation with other forces on the left around particular issues in the meantime, nor does it rule out creating some sort of intermediary formation. As you are probably aware, the Socialist Party approached other forces on the left with proposals for a socialist alliance coming into these elections. We were rebuffed with very little explanation given.

    Our understanding is that the problems forces such as the PBPA had with our proposals were the explicitly socialist basis of the alliance we were proposing as well as our requirement that electoral candidates have a record of political work in their community or workplace. It seems that they are looking in a different direction for an alliance, talking up the left credentials of Labour and Sinn Fein and trying to woo various ex-Labour and ex-Green councillors. If cooperation is to progress, then in our view very serious debates and discussions about programme and about orientation will be a necessary starting point.