There are important lessons for the Irish Left to learn from the outcome of the recent General Election in the south of Ireland. Not least if the left is to build support and gain momentum at the Ballot box, it must offer its core electorate policies that give hope to Society and especially those within it who are less well off economically. The Left need to collectively draw up a program that advocates re-unification, greater freedom’s and democratic accountability, full employment, fairness in the work place, a sustainable environment; affordable homes, and a re-distribution of wealth which brings to an end the massive chasm that has opened up between the wealthy and the majority of the Irish people during Bertie Ahearn’s period in office.
The fact that during the election campaign the Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams told the electorate that if asked, SF were willing to enter into a coalition with the governing party Fianna Fail; and the Green Party to its shame actually did so. Means that for the time being these two parties have sadly chosen a road few leftist are willing to tread, the more so as FF were clearly unwilling to make any real concessions to potential coalition partners from the left. Hopeful given time and a new leadership SF and the Greens will come to see the error of their ways and return to the Leftist tradition of Connolly, Mellows, O’Donnell and others who have struggled to unite the Republican left with its natural allies the working classes and the socialist and libertarian left.
However it is simply not enough for the left to continuously harp on about the Fianna Fail led government’s maladministration, as important as this is, for come the next general election we will still not be in a position to offer the electorate a real and practical left alternative.* Thus it is imperative the Republican and socialist left and its natural allies look to the future and move forward by creating a vehicle which will challenge the powers that be in both of the political jurisdictions of Ireland. Of late things have begun to look a little more hopeful. The open wounds that many left republicans have suffered due to Mr Adams capitulation to the representatives of Capital, whilst not healing have at least stopped festering. Left Republicans are beginning to understand it is for them to re-build a political movement to represent the Irish working classes and in the immediate future members of SF must look after their own consciences.
The group of republicans in the north who went under the banner of Concerned Republicans during the kerfuffle over SF’s acceptance of the PSNI has already begun the fight back by establishing the Republican Network for Unity. In the Statement announcing the formation of the new organization, veteran Republican activist Danny McBrearty said, whilst accepting there were still thorny issues between republicans, given good will and trust these can be resolved. He went on to point out that on the plus side there were “vast resources of skills and experience exist[ing] within [republican] communities, we are confident that these can be tapped in to and channelled into progressive political actions.” **
In the southern State, éirígí, an organization that originated within Dublin SF has caught the imagination of many leftists and left republicans. It strategy is very similar to that of RNfU, Brian Leeson a leading member recently wrote an article for the éirígí web site entitled Rebuilding The Republican Movement in which he posed the question whether “the traditional ‘party/army’ model of a republican ‘movement’ best serve our collective struggle now and in the coming years or do we need to develop an alternative, new, model upon which to build opposition to the British occupation?” *** For raising this issue Brian must be given enormous credit for it is of great importance if Irish Republicanism is to move beyond being a fringe organization, that only comes into its own at times of enormous political tension and crises.
The fact is the political and social circumstance that would make an armed republican struggle viable are not likely to occur in the foreseeable future; and even if this were not so, does anyone truly believe that given the titanic effort and sacrifice the ‘long war’ generation of Irish Republicans put into their insurgency, that the ‘just one more heave with an honest leadership’ strategy could gain legs.. Thus left Republicans must look beyond the traditional post 1916 organizational methods. After all James Connolly never saw his alliance with the progressive wing of the bourgeoisie, out of which Óglaigh Na hÉireann emerged as being permanent, yet this has been the basic platform that left republicans have tied themselves into since it first emerged in 1916. It has to be said in recent times it has looked more like a straight jacket than a vehicle to achieve a 32 County Socialist Republic.
If one looks at the political space in both jurisdiction within Ireland, there is a gaping hole to be filled on the Left and the situation demands that Left Republicans and the socialist and libertarian left come together and jointly fill it. Whether it is reunification, opposition to Neo-liberal economics and the Neo-cons who are its political cheer leaders, US/UK military adventures abroad, State run Health Care, Education, Pensions, Infrastructure and the widening gap between economically rich and poor, the left have very few real political differences.
Yet by ourselves alone we must face the fact that the left does not have the numbers to mount a real fight back against those who represent Capital politically and are willing to inflict the worst excesses of Neo-liberal economics upon the Irish working classes. The situation demands that we on the Left enter into a United Front of left organizations and individuals. As to the name whilst not a member of Eirigi that name seems fine by me as it is both a break from the past and means in English Rise Up, but that decision would be for the comrades who formed the United Front.
The question all of us on the Left need to ask, is not what our preferred outcome would be, but what are the needs politically of the Irish working classes, both north and south? Even at a glance it is clear that the situation demands that the WC has honest, principled leftist representation within the nations Parliamentary forums and local councils. The fact that some Irish workers are amongst the lowest paid in western Europe and the gap between rich and poor increases in the north and south by the day is partly due to this absence of left political representation. Which gives the political representatives of Capital a free reign to exploit and plunder at will.
As to working within the British northern assembly I have no doubt this will be a thorny issue, but if leftists and republicans do not put a peg on their noses and enter this mockney parliament, others will; and their purpose will be to betray the workers they claim to represent by doing their masters bidding. Of course there could be no question of entering Stormont to govern the six counties, the purpose of left representatives being there should both be defensive; and to politically blast away the very foundations of the charade of democracy that Stormont is and has always been.
Many on the Left within other European States have already acted on left unity. In Germany the remnants of the Socialist Unity Party which became theParty of Democratic Socialism after the fall of the Berlin wall, has merged with members of the anti capitalist movement and the left wing of the SPD to create the Left Party, [Die Linke] similar Left mergers have also happened in Italy, Greece, Spain, Turkey and a number of other European nations.
An umbrella organization has been formed by these organizations to represent them internationally, the European Left Party. [ELP] To date there is no affiliate to the ELP from Ireland, thus there is an opportunity if the membership wishes it for any left United Front Party that might emerge within Ireland to slot in as an affiliate to the ELP.****
* The same is true about the SF/DUP coalition at Stormont.