This blog is for anyone interested in discussing the political content of a programme for a revolutionary worker’ party in Ireland.
An initial statement by the author of this blog which does not pretend to be a fully finished programme – its aim is to stimulate discussion and debate about the key areas a revolutionary socialist programme needs to cover.
So the Labour Party and Sinn Féin show their true political colours lining up with the reactionary right to defend a constitution that denies women the basic human right to control their own bodily integrity and reproductive life.
This is also another example of the very limited democratic nature of the capitalist parliamentary system. The polls consistently show over 30% in favour of women’s right to choose and over 80& in favour of abortion when a women’s health is in danger.
And here it is only just over 10% in favour of a referendum which is a necessary prerequisite for either of these improvements on the current draconian situation.
TD Clare Daly’s bill calling for a Referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment (Article 40.3.3) from the Irish Constitution will be debated in the Dáil on Wednesday 17th December from 7pm.
The Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment is appealing to all Pro-Chocie activists to join the rally outside the Dail that evening to put pressure on TDs from all political parties to vote in favour of the bill.
We have organised a live link-up to the Dail so that people can listen to the debate as it happens.
At the Dublin 10 December protest against water charges I was given a Socialist Party leaflet that appeared at first glance to promise a more left-wing perspective from the SP than usual. The headline read “To challenge austerity you must challenge the system” with “challenge the system” in very large typeface.
There is a rousing revolutionary quote from James Connolly next to a picture of Joe Higgins in firebrand mode:
“The day has passed for patching up the capitalist system; it must go.”
The text refers to a “new working class movement emerged into the communities, and then onto the streets in Dublin, on October 11th… people are organising their own fight back.”
To finish the front page they argue:
“Ordinary working class people are the most powerful force in Irish society and the task of the new movement is to organise and mobilise that power.
“The Socialist Party is a cutting edge in the movement. We are the organised political force that is advocating non-payment of the water charges and is fighting for a genuine socialist challenge and alternative inside and outside the Dáil.”
But, as the saying goes, the devil is in the detail – and on to the back page we go.
Anyone who thought the front page of the leaflet represented some kind of leftward move by the Socialist Party in response to the exciting developments of working class communities organising to block meter installations would have been brought swiftly back to earth with a bang by the details on page two.
In a five-point plan entitled “What the Socialist Party is fighting for” the last two items read:
Kick the parties of austerity out of the Dáil – the new movement should stand anti-water charges / anti-austerity candidates in the coming general elections.
No deals with the capitalist establishment – for a Left government that ends austerity and breaks with capitalism. The needs of the majority must come first.
The concrete perspective being put forward by the SP is for the movement to give priority to standing candidates in the elections with the aim of electing a “Left government that ends austerity and breaks with capitalism”.
Some may think this strategy of establishing a socialist future through the limited bourgeois democracy of capitalist parliaments is completely compatible with creating much more democratic institutions of working class self-organisation. However the entire history of working class struggle shows these to be quite distinct paths within the socialist movement, one usually taken by reformist socialists and the other by revolutionary socialists.
This is not an academic historical issue. Exactly the same process happened within the campaign against the household charges. We were told that running in elections would not impact on the household charge campaign and yet those groups who chose to run candidates, like the SP’s newly created electoral vehicle the Anti-Austerity Alliance, disappeared almost completely from the campaign. This was a contributing factor to the collapse of the CAHWT, resulting in a bitterness that has left the anti-water charges campaign somewhat fragmented.
The electoralists also continually stymied attempts to encourage grassroots organisation within the campaign against the household charges in favour of groups based on electoral constituencies. It is therefore no accident that they have been slow to build anti-meter installation groups, like we have in Cobh, based on residents groups as the base units with any office holders and committees answerable to, and recallable by, delegates from those residents groups.
I argued in an earlier post that one of the main criteria for considering electoral support to anyone in the next election should be how they support, in word, and more importantly in deed, the deepening and strengthening of these exciting developments in real working class power.
As it stands I am highly doubtful that the electoral perspective being put forward by the SP would meet that criterion. Instead it seems to boil down to exactly what Connolly objected to – patching up the capitalist system.
This is of course not a blanket argument against participation in the capitalist election process, which can be a useful platform provided that it is done on the basis of any successful candidate becoming a working class agent in the enemy camp whose primary role and responsibility is to encourage the development of working class self-organisation in opposition to the capitalists. This not only best defends us against current attacks like the water charges but also points the way, if only in embryo, towards something only possible through the working class taking power into our own hands – a different kind of society based on meeting our needs and wants instead of the insanity of the capitalist drive for profits no matter the human cost. Posing parliamentary reforms as the road to transforming society can only lead to political passivity and the undermining of the empowerment that comes from participation in these more democratic forms of working class organisation.
Press statement on last nights Garda violence as approved by Cobh Says No to Austerity committee and reps today:
Cobh Says No to Austerity strongly condemns the vicious attack by Gardai on peaceful anti-water charges protesters in Dublin last night.
Spokesperson Karen Doyle said “Our contingent at the Right2Water protest had been among the many thousands unable to join the main rally yesterday due to the Gardai’s unnecessarily strict restrictions on access to Dáil Éireann. We made a collective decision to participate in the blocking of O’Connell Street before getting our bus home so we therefore have first-hand knowledge of the completely peaceful nature of those involved in that civil disobedience.”
Mrs Doyle went on to say “What happened later that evening was a completely unacceptable provocation that can only have been authorised at the highest levels of the State and exposes them yet again as no friends of working people and our democratic rights to peaceful civil disobedience.”
As regular readers of this blog will know, Cobh Says No to Austerity is currently collecting signatures on a petition to Cork County Council (CCC):
We the undersigned request that Cork County Council stands alongside their constituents by calling for the immediate and complete removal of water charges and the disbanding of Irish Water.
While there can be no illusions that a petition alone will get rid of water charges or that the CCC is on the side of the working class, this is a clear and simple statement of our demands, and has been picked up by campaigns in other towns across the county.
I see that the Right2Water campaign have also launched a petition which they intend to present to the Dáil at the protest on 10 December:
We are calling on the Irish Government to abolish domestic water charges and respect our human right to water.
Access to water is recognized as a human right by the United Nations. The Irish Constitution supports the distribution of vital community resources, like water, on the needs of the common good.
I believe the introduction of water charges infringes on both of these rights.
A key point missing here is a call for disbanding Irish Water. In this, as in their refusal to call for non-payment of the bills, R2W are undemocratically ignoring the will of the vast majority of those participating in their own demonstrations. They clearly have no respect for the many community based working class organisations being built across the county that overwhelmingly call for no water charges and no Irish Water now. Right2Water is a top-down organisation dominated by trade union bureaucrats politically accommodating to Sinn Féin which as far as I know are the only group involved which is in favour of the continuing existence of Irish Water and which has never pretended to stand for the class interests of Irish workers. In contrast, the campaign we need would be based on a system of local, regional and national delegated meetings where the delegates are accountable to those who elect them and can be replaced at any time by the community they represent.
Also missing from the petition is a timeframe for the abolishing of water charges. I suspect this reflects a view that we will get rid of the water charges by electing a new government which promises to change the law. This electoralist strategy is fundamentally opposed to building a campaign of militant opposition to meter installations and calling for non-payment of the bills – and Right2Water know it. It relies on tinkering with the system, living in fear of the rule of law, rather than building independent organisations of the working class that are prepared to do what is necessary to defeat the charges.
It seems clear to me that Right2Water as currently constituted is not fit for purpose. We need a national campaign based on working class self-organisation that is able to represent the will of activists opposing Irish Water in their local communities.