Yesterday I attended a (disappointingly small) meeting of the ULA non-aligned that was called to discuss the results of the initial meeting of the non-aligned with the TDs Joan Collins & Clare Daly and Councillor Declan Bree, along with their supporters, that had been held two weeks previously. And to decide how to approach the next such unity meeting on 2 March.
I presented 5 motions to the meeting:
It is time to face the reality that the ULA is no longer functioning as any kind of real organisation. It is time to move on.
1 – This meeting of the non-aligned members of the ULA believes that the ULA should be closed down.
Looking towards the possible United Left formation to replace the ULA it is clear that the two issues of the relationship with Wallace & Flanagan and TD accountability need to be clarified. I propose the following to help make that clear.
2 – This meeting of the non-aligned members of the ULA believe that any future “United Left” organisation must oppose any on-going political coalitions, not just governmental, with bourgeois forces.
3 – This meeting of the non-aligned members of the ULA understand Mick Wallace and Ming Flanagan to be examples of bourgeois populists who any future “United Left” organisation would not enter into any on-going political coalitions with.
4 – This meeting of the non-aligned members of the ULA consider the TDs of any future “United Left” organisation to have no more rights than any other member of that organisation.
5 – This meeting of the non-aligned members of the ULA believes that any political statements by any members of any future “United Left” organisation should be approved by the Branch Council of that “United Left”, or delegated sub-committee of the Branch Council (such as the steering committee or editorial board), before publication.
I was the only person to vote for my first motion as the rest of the meeting was of the opinion that they did not want to be seen as the ones that ended the ULA in the public eye – despite most, if not all of them, agreeing with me that the concrete reality is that the ULA is indeed dead. This would seem to be more concerned with “optics” and how the bourgeois media might report things than telling the working class the truth.
Motions 2 and 3 on working class political independence brought a strange combination with a clear majority supporting the first making the general point of opposing political alliances with bourgeois forces while a clear majority opposed the second when it came to actually naming the two concrete examples where the danger of such an alliance is perhaps most immediately posed, at least in the wider public’s mind.
In my mind this failure ranks as outright opportunism as the primary reason given for not voting for motion 3 was fear that it might alienate the Collins/Daly bloc who have been working closely with Wallace and Flanagan on a number of one-off issues and who may not be happy with having their allies described in this way.
Motion 4 was narrowly defeated.
Motion 5 was amended to replace “any political statements” with “any public political positions taken” but was still clearly defeated.
The bulk of the meeting was taken up with discussions about how to copper-fasten the elements of democracy and accountability (particularly of TDs) in the proposed unity document that would launch the United Left – possibly at the 2 March meeting.
Much of this discussion was of an organisational nature about size of steering committees, the branch council structure and other democratic forms but one issue of more general importance did come up – the nature of the new organisation and the party it was trying to build. It was argued that this would explicitly NOT be a revolutionary organisation and would consciously be “broad”, including activists with a wide range of perspectives. Revolutionaries would be tolerated as a tendency and hopefully sometime in the future the organisation would somehow become revolutionary – but that really is for the far-off future and what is needed now is something else.
I countered that surely this must mean something in terms of the programmatic framework being proposed – that this too must consciously not be revolutionary, that it therefore MUST be reformist. Surely what is needed is a party that fights for the interests of the working class as a class and the issue of the programme that can carry out that fight is one that will be decided in struggle rather than consciously starting out with a plan to limit the programmatic framework.
I am for a party that fights for the interests of the working class and has a programme capable of carrying out that fight, up to and including the establishment of socialism. For me that necessarily means a revolutionary programme. To have the possibility of such a programme explicitly ruled out from the very beginning is not something I can accept.
Despite the protestations of support for working class independence and theoretical opposition to political alliances with bourgeois forces the fact that the non-aligned are more concerned with not offending the sensibilities of others above taking a principled stand on this issue when it comes to the specific case of Wallace and Flanagan leads me to believe that the professed support for this basic principle of socialist politics is no more than skin deep.
There is also the significant issue of the electoralist focus of the Daly/Collins bloc. Although this was not discussed in much depth at yesterday’s meeting it is a problem in terms of what the political appetites of the new organisation will be. When combined with the other two issues outlined above this becomes a problem of major significance as electoralism will only feed into them in an even more negative way.
After giving it serious thought I have therefore decided not to join the proposed United Left organisation even if all the non-aligned’s proposals on democracy and accountability are taken on board by the new formation.