Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Socialist Party’s Irish Bust-Up Fall Out – from Irish Times to Socialist Democracy.

with one comment

Image result for Socialist party Ireland

“Like a hermit crab it lived for decades in the British and Irish Labour parties and patiently burrowed into lower level of the union bureaucracies to win positions.” (Socialist Democracy)

The Irish Times published this last week,

Socialist Party documents illustrate criticism from international comrades

The inner workings of the Socialist Party are not usually on display for all to see.

Its TDs – Paul MurphyRuth Coppinger and Mick Barry – are the most cogent left wing voices in the Dáil.

Also operating under the Solidarity (formerly Anti-Austerity Alliance) banner, they have led debates on issues such as abortion and water charges.

In our view a tendency has also developed of some leading Irish comrades seeing all struggles through the prism of the women’s movement, rather than seeing how it interconnects with other struggles

Documents recently circulated within the party, however, illustrate how their movement has been criticised by international comrades for an excessive focus on abortion and women’s rights issues.

And this:

Inside Ireland’s Socialist Party: telling the ‘digestible’ truth

Paul Murphy advocates ‘united front’ when dealing with Sinn Féin, documents show

The – well informed – article cites ‘Internal Documents’ – i.e. those made available on this site, not to mention elsewhere.

The Socialist Party will present the truth “in the way which is most digestible to the working class at a particular time”, TD Paul Murphy has said.

In internal documents discussing Brexit and wider strategy, he asks: “Are we guilty of not ‘telling the truth’ to the working class when we don’t bring a demand to leave the EU?

“We always tell the truth to the working class. But we present the truth in the way which is most digestible to the working class at a particular time.”

In exchanges with members including Joe Higgins, he advocates a “united front” method of dealing with groups such as Sinn Féin.

“The guiding line for us all in this debate should be what Lenin, approvingly quoting Trotsky, argued, that ‘ideological struggle within the party does not mean mutual ostracism but mutual influence’.”

He also corrects his comrades’ “inaccurate historical description of the united front as ‘tactics the Comintern and revolutionary parties adopted . . . in the 1920s and 1930s’.

Irish Times readers were spared the reference to ‘Mandelism’, in this ‘debate’ a sugared almond only us hardened Trainspotters could chew over.

The below is definitely for the Trainspotters.

Irish Socialist Party internal debate

The issues should concern us all.

The programme of the Socialist Party is rather narrow and restrictive and it operates a vicious internal discipline. Like a hermit crab it lived for decades in the British and Irish Labour parties and patiently burrowed into lower level of the union bureaucracies to win positions.

Socialist Democracy.

The publication of internal documents from the Socialist Party has led to a gleeful attempt to rubbish the left by the Irish press and by an outbreak of gossip on social media.

In neither case has there been any real discussion of the issues arising in the SP’s internal debate. This is a pity, because the documents highlight key strategic contradictions for the Irish left that are not being addressed.

The areas of dispute are; feminism, relationships with Sinn Fein and the overall strategic direction of the reformist left in terms of a ”broad left party” and a “left government.”

Two issues stand out,

The Irish organisation is criticised by the British group for opportunism in the abortion referendum. That is the claim that they simply supported what young militants already believed and made no attempt to introduce socialist policies. Both sides of the argument are hampered by distorted ideas of what a socialist policy would be. For the critics, it is an orientation to the working class, by which they mean speeches in dusty trade union halls. For the Irish group, it was moving the front group ROSA to a more radical position focused on the right to choose.

And (this is where SD hits home),

The dispute around Sinn Fein inside the Socialist Party between Paul Murphy and the majority represents a much greater division than simply debates on feminism. Unfortunately that debate is poisoned at source, with both factions agreeing that Sinn Fein is a sectarian party.

What this means is that Paul Murphy, the advocate for a softer line, defines sectarianism as:

“trying to coerce the protestant working class into the southern state via a border poll”

The policy of the party is that a democratic majority vote for a united Ireland would be sectarian and coercive because it might provoke loyalist paramilitaries to violence. The extreme unionism of their position does not stop there. They routinely see far right loyalists as legitimate representatives of Protestant workers.

So at a fundamental level members of the Socialist Party exhibit a deep hostility to a unified Irish democracy. What then divides them?

Paul Murphy is in effect pointing out that their policy, brought to the fore, will alienate workers and limit their electoral appeal.

All this has happened before. The programme of the Socialist Party is rather narrow and restrictive and it operates a vicious internal discipline. Like a hermit crab it lived for decades in the British and Irish Labour parties and patiently burrowed into lower level of the union bureaucracies to win positions. Today the union leaders, locked in partnership with capitalism, are content to front protest activity led by communities and activists. This gives an area of intervention to the SP, but if the struggles are big enough they challenge the fixed ideology of the group.

So the bin changes campaign of 2003-2004  saw an electoral boost for the Socialist Party but also saw the expulsion of their national secretary and Joan Collins standing as an independent TD.

One cannot resist a laugh at this though,

Many sniggered at the use of Marxist theory in the Socialist Party’s internal debate. It’s true that it was somewhat turgid in places and self-serving in others. But it structures the debate around ideas that are themselves the fruit of many decades of struggle by the working class.

Now I wonder who that can refer to….

Advertisements

Written by Andrew Coates

March 12, 2019 at 5:48 pm

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. “are the most cogent left wing voices in the Dáil”. The 3 from the Peoples Before Profit, SWN (an affiliate of British SWP) are very good. Two ex SP members in the Dail, Joan Collins and Clare Daly, are highly regarded.

    Jim Monaghan

    March 12, 2019 at 6:00 pm


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: