In the last article on the debate on the Left and its potential in the upcoming general election I said that I would look at the most important area in which the Left generally, despite the purported differences, were pretty much agreed. Not on everything, but what they don’t agree on is in principle secondary.
The fundamental unity is on the nature of the new society the different groups want to bring about and the means to achieve it.
Taking the contributions quoted in the last post:
Sinn Fein: “We need to present a clear, coherent and credible programme for Government, based on an alternative model of social and economic development, that offers people well paid secure employment, high quality public and community services, fair and adequate taxation – all rooted in a strategy for economic growth that is environmentally sustainable and socially just.”
Rory Hearne: “There is, despite the caricatures of division, much ground for agreement on policy amongst the diverse groups, for example, reversing water and household charges and austerity hitting the most vulnerable, standing up to the EU on Ireland’s debt, a write-down of mortgage arrears, a living wage, proper public health, housing, education and delivering human rights for all, direct democracy returning power to local areas and communities and a state and indigenous-led economic strategy away from overreliance on foreign multinationals, wealth taxes, expressing solidarity with Greece for a European debt conference and much more.”
The joint statement of the Anti-Austerity Alliance, People before Profit and others is:
“. . . committing to oppose and organise to fight against any more austerity and for an immediate reversal of key austerity measures such as water charges, property tax, USC for those on average or low incomes, health, education and welfare cuts. It also means developing a strategy for repudiation of the bankers’ debt; for a write-down of residential mortgages; for taxation of wealth and big business profits; and against privatisation of public services and natural resources. Instead of putting money into bank debt, we think there should be public investment in housing, healthcare, education, childcare, public transport, water services, renewable energy and environmental protection – as the start of re-orienting economic activity to meet social need and provide useful work for young people and the unemployed.”
So if there is broad agreement on a radical but not revolutionary policy there is also broad agreement on how to implement it.
Sinn Fein: “We need to translate all of this activism into change at the polls to break the Fianna Fail-Fine Gael stranglehold on the southern Irish state and install a left wing Government implementing a left wing programme – if such a Government is not possible after the upcoming general election we should maintain the momentum and keep building until we have secured the requisite public support.”
“So the immediate tasks for those of us on the Left who want to seriously challenge the Right for control of the state are clear.”
“We need to ensure that popular mobilisation continues if and when a left wing Government is installed to act as a guarantor of the promises made by progressive politicians at election time.”
Brendan Ogle Right2Water: “We will win this campaign. Of that I have no doubt whatsoever. We will return a Government that will be voted in to reverse the current crazy, wasteful, ideological, neo-liberal privatisation of our publicly owned water. And then what? Is that it? What about our right to housing, to a job and decent workers rights, to decent healthcare, to education? Do we, those in what has clearly become a ‘movement’ care about these things? And if so, can a water movement become a vehicle of real social and political change?”
“The anger, and mass mobilisation necessary to reclaim our nation for its citizens are present. The citizen’s hunger for their democracy back is present and the electoral means are present.”
The joint statement of the Anti-Austerity Alliance, People before Profit, said of the alternative that:
“It should fight for a Left government committed to breaking the rules that impose austerity and that prioritise the restoration of the profits of banking and big business; for a government committed to restructuring the economy and society to meet the needs of people and to protect our environment – including unilateral repudiation, if necessary, of bankers’ debt.”
In commenting on these joint statements Paul Murphy says that:
“These statements were a positive engagement with the process – in particular focused on three areas – calling for non-payment as part of a non-electoralist, struggle orientation; a call to rule out coalition with Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour; and a clear left programme, including commitment to debt repudiation and repeal of the 8th amendment.”
Ruling out coalition with Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour is a central part of this. The left needs to be ambitious and inspiring – this means not settling for the old mistakes of coalition with the right, and betraying and disappointing people in order to get Ministerial positions. Instead, it means fighting for a real left government.”
“A left government is not just one where people who describe themselves as left-wing are in government. It is one that implements a left programme – which reverses austerity measures, which pursues a strategy of debt repudiation, which stands up to bullying from the EU, which uses the wealth and resources of society for people’s needs rather than corporations’ profits and which tackles the oppression of women, migrants and LGBTQ people.”
However where Murphy claims to be in disagreement with the likes of Sinn Fein, and those in the Right2Water campaign who wish to see it as part of a left alternative Government, is his claim that a real left alternative is not so focused on elections and would not include the Labour Party.
For him the real left alternative is one that is less focused on the elections, in particular the next election, and is orientated more to both struggles outside of the Dail and to using elections and elected positions to assist the building of these movements.
Of Eoin Ó Broin’s contribution he says that “The embracing of the Labour Party by someone who has a profile of being on the left of Sinn Fein is significant. It is an illustration that unfortunately Sinn Fein is prepared to be part of a government that will continue with austerity.”
So despite similar programmes the Socialist Party opposes an alliance with the Labour Party and Sinn Fein, which means that the prospect of a ‘left’ Government after the next elections is practically zero.
It is in this sense that Burtenshaw’s argument that the population has rejected the left’s alternative is rather obviously true, so obviously true it is difficult to see how it can be denied. A left Government in the next election that does not include Sinn Fein and/or the Labour Party is not going to happen.
In the next post I’ll look at what the Left might do, even with a reformist strategy.