What has saddened me the most about the “Alan participated in the anti-AAA witch-hunt” farce

My experience of working with the Socialist Party is that they have a high proportion of members and supporters who genuinely believe in the socialist transformation of society. However those sincere socialists are getting some very bad political training from the SP.

For instance they seem to truly believe that my mistake in moving the motion against Ciara defines my whole attitude towards the witch-hunt against the AAA that took place in Cobh Says No from 25 March to 16 June 2015 – irrespective of all the evidence to the contrary that I have provided. That my public recantation of that motion as a mistake (for precisely the reason that it would be seen as part of the witch-hunt against the AAA!) made at the time, and repeated now, means nothing.

It seems they must believe that Marxists can never make mistakes.

On one level I guess that holding me to such an impossibly high level of infallibility is actually a back-handed compliment. Though the irony that such an implicit degree of confidence in my political ability is being used to prevent the use of that political ability in the AAA project, that they think is so essential for the Irish working class, is presumably lost on them.

But then this is an organisation which has trained these sincere socialists so “well” that they are quite happy to defend the use of the term “socialist” to describe a consistent supporter of US imperialist wars.

I guess if you have learnt how to do the internalised logic-chopping that allows you to see the term “socialist” devalued to that extent (effectively making it worthless as a political category) then their refusal to seriously analyse the evidence that I actually OPPOSED the anti-AAA witch-hunt in Cobh Says No should come as no surprise.

Just as they can similarly internally fool themselves into believing that the rejection of my membership of the AAA wasn’t really about the SP not wanting the threat of a potential alternative left-wing pole of attraction within the AAA – even if that potential threat came from a lone individual.

The political cynics who run the SP have a lot to be responsible for.


More on what “participating in a witch-hunt” looks like to the Socialist Party

As the SP seem committed to holding the line on their position that I participated in the witch-hunt against AAA members in Cobh Says No in the 2nd quarter of 2015 I went back through posts and comments on the Cobh Says No to Austerity facebook page that related to this dispute.

I was relieved to find nothing that would substantiate their claim in any way and indeed I found the following post by myself which indicates exactly the opposite. This was in response to Karen Doyle, one of the moderators of the page and a central driving force behind the split, deleting a post by one of the AAA members of Cobh Says No that was critical of the process for selecting delegates for the 1 May 2015 R2W conference.

Alan Gibson
28 April 2015

I am completely opposed to the removal of Evelyn’s post on this Facebook page.

Whatever Karen’s motivations for deleting the post the reality is that it was political censorship and I will not be associated with it. If it goes unchallenged it will create a very bad precedent for the future of CSNA. Karen should reconsider her action and publicly apologise to Evelyn.

As an aside I think the best email address for sending any concerns about the undemocratic nature of the 1 May conference is Right2WaterIRL@gmail.com

Alan Gibson
Chairperson Cobh Says No to Austerity

This is in common with all my responses to the attacks on AAA members of Cobh Says No, just for being members of the AAA – that started with my defence of their right to join the AAA at the 25 March meeting where the attacks began. Indeed it is merely the continuation of my long-standing position of defending the rights of the SP (and later the AAA) in the earlier anti-household charges campaign against those who attacked their participation under the guise of being “anti-party community activists”.

The only bit of supposed evidence of my being part of the witch-hunt against AAA members is my proposed motion to expel Ciara following her disruptive behaviour at the meeting on 2 June.

It must be remembered that I withdrew my support for this motion on 14 June and it was never voted on at the meeting on 18 June (I incorrectly reported in a previous post that I had voted against it but in actuality I was never given the chance to do so).

I can’t remember, or find evidence of, the exact date I proposed the motion to expel Ciara but at most there were 12 days in which it might be argued that because of this motion I was objectively helping the anti-AAA witch-hunt. However any such help I might have inadvertently given the anti-AAA witch-hunt was surely more than compensated for by my withdrawal of the motion and the related explanation of why I was doing so.

I think the most that can be claimed is that for those 12 days I was stupid not to see how my motion would play into the wider anti-AAA context. I actually think that would be a fair enough criticism. I was under extreme pressure in a difficult situation and made a mistake. It isn’t the first mistake I have made in campaigns and it won’t be the last.

It must also be seen as a mistake that was completely out of character with how I had acted up to that point in Cobh Says No and before that through the entire time of the Campaign Against Household and Water Charges.

Given my record of opposing any moves against the participation of AAA members in Cobh Says No just because of their membership of the AAA – both before and after the very short period of those 12 days – it seems to me the SP/AAA is clearly trying to create something out of nothing. Unless of course membership of the AAA is only open to those who have never ever made any political mistakes in their lives (or at least have never admitted to making any)…

I stand by my assertion that this is all a smoke-screen to hide the fact that the real reason my membership of the AAA was rejected. That was because my revolutionary Marxist political programme for how to achieve the socialist goals of the AAA was deemed to be too radical – unlike the SP’s much more less dangerous ideas.


SP political smears and working class democracy

Prior to signing up for AAA membership online and subsequently having that membership rejected I had been inquiring about the possibility of joining ROSA via Facebook private message to Fiona Ryan, a leading SP/AAA/ROSA member in Cork.

In the new context of my membership rejection I made a little joke:

Maybe I am banned from joining ROSA as well for having the wrong kind (too left wing) kind of anti-capitalism?

To which Fiona replied:

You know damn well it had everything to do with what happened with Ciara
The decision wasn’t just sp comrades

So it seems the SP are running with the story that I was part of a witch-hunt against AAA members in Cobh Says No and that was the real reason I was banned from joining the AAA.

Firstly I have to accept that there was indeed a witch-hunt against the AAA in Cobh Says No in the middle of 2015. Secondly it is clear to me in hindsight that I did not fully recognise this witch-hunt was occurring until too late and instead treated the disputes as primarily about personality conflicts within Cobh. Lastly it must also be recognised that it was pretty much a successful witch-hunt with the bulk of the Cobh Says No activists setting up a new group – Cobh CommUNITY 4 Change (CC4C) – that bureaucratically excluded AAA members.

However if I was part of the successful witch-hunt against the AAA there are some questions which must be answered by those making such a claim:

– why did I defend Ciara, Evelyn and John at the first Cobh Says No rep’s meeting where criticism of them joining the AAA was made?

– why didn’t I participate in the witch-hunt “victory” by joining the new group?

– why didn’t I join the bulk of the activists now organised as CC4C in their sectarian boycott of the last event organised under the name of Cobh Says No (the bill burning)?

– why did I publicly recant my one action (the motion against Ciara) because I realised it would be seen as objectively supporting the witch-hunt? A recanting that came at some considerable personal expense to the political capital I had built up as one of the central leaders of Cobh Says No.

I have publicly accepted I made a mistake with my proposal to expel Ciara but that mistake was not part of the witch-hunt against the AAA.

My mistake in moving the motion against Ciara is therefore an excuse, not the reason, for rejecting my membership of the AAA.

I believe the real reason for my banning from the AAA to have been my political programme for achieving the socialist goal of the AAA (a goal that I saw being so eloquently expressed by leaders of the AAA in videos of their recent conference) being too radical, too Marxist.

The leadership of the AAA should have the political confidence, and indeed the political honesty, to take responsibility for the real reason for their decision. However I am not holding my breath as this is fairly clearly part of a political smear campaign aimed at inoculating SP/AAA members and supporters against listening to, and seriously thinking about, the truly “dangerous ideas” of genuine revolutionary Marxism that I am putting forward in opposition to the reformism in practice of the SP.

I intend to post a comment on the Cork and national AAA Facebook pages linking to this blog post. These are moderated pages so the AAA leadership will have to decide whether to allow the comments.

Most people’s understanding of working class democracy includes the right of reply to the kind of accusations being made against me.

It is unclear to me whether the AAA leadership believes in the norms of proletarian democracy or is so tainted by their participation in, and orientation towards, bourgeois democracy that simple things like honest debate, including the right of reply to accusations, are of any interest to them – we will see.


AAA – this Marxist not welcome

Earlier this evening, just under two hours ago, I was rung by a member of the Anti-Austerity Alliance (and Socialist Party) telling me that the Cork AAA branch committee had discussed my membership application.

They have declined my application – two grounds being given.

  • That they do not believe I really agree with the politics of the AAA – particularly citing my position on the 2016 election where I opposed voting for the AAA.
  • They believe I was involved in a “witch-hunt” against an AAA member who had been involved in the anti-water charges/meters movement in Cobh.

On the first point I would simply note that they seem to think it is not possible for people to change their minds. Clearly having opposed a vote for the AAA in the recent election would have meant I would have had a lot of work to do to convince my potential comrades of the sincerity of my motivations for joining but I am confident I could have done so as my commitment to the goal of a socialist transformation of society is as real as that as any other member of the AAA.

While I think this opinion is actually primarily motivated by political cowardice on the part of the Socialist Party who politically and organisationally dominate the AAA and do not want any critical socialist voice to their left to exist within the AAA they clearly do have the right to make this assessment and decline my membership application on that basis.

However I completely reject the second allegation as a valid basis for rejecting my membership.

After the successful defeat of attempts to install water meters in Cobh in the second half of 2014 the Cobh Says No community organisation collapsed in the middle of 2015 as the result of a series of increasingly antagonistic non-political disputes that had led to a large number of activists dropping out over the preceding months.

One individual had been at the centre of all these disputes. Following an AAA public meeting in Cork city on 5 March, along with two other prominent members of Cobh Says No, she joined the AAA.

At a Cobh Says No activist meeting in April the three were attacked for having joined the AAA and not having immediately reported this within Cobh Says No. At that meeting I defended their right to have joined the AAA and argued there was no requirement on them to have announced this. The meeting descended into chaos with much shouting and walkouts.

I used what political authority I had in the campaign to try to keep Cobh Says No together despite the increasing levels of personal animosity as well as growing hostility and sectarianism towards the AAA/SP. As part of this I made a major mistake in proposing a motion to expel the disruptive individual after her behaviour at what was to prove to be the second last meeting of Cobh Says No on 2 June 2015.

In the period leading up to the next scheduled meeting on 18 June I realised that contrary to my best intentions such a motion could only be seen as an anti-AAA move and so I withdrew my support for the motion and voted against it at the meeting.

This blog post from the time explains my public recognition of the mistake – https://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/2015/06/14/correcting-a-mistake-on-divisions-in-cobh-says-no-to-austerity/

At the next meeting on 30 June Cobh Says No was formally disbanded with the bulk of the remaining activists forming a new organisation, Cobh CommUNITY 4 Change, which aligned itself with Right2Water and bureaucratically excluded people on the basis of their membership of the AAA/SP.

I did not join the new group.

It is clearly true that I made mistakes in trying to keep Cobh Says No together as a group of all those opposed to water charges and meters whatever their wider political affiliations however my actions were in no way part of any witch-hunt against the AAA. In fact I was motivated by almost exactly the opposite considerations as I think my blog post from the time makes absolutely clear.


Why I joined the Anti-Austerity Alliance

Yesterday (Sunday 4 December 2016) I joined the Anti-Austerity Alliance using their online form and PayPal facility.

I was motivated to do so by comments of AAA TDs about breaking with capitalism and how the ongoing crisis of capitalism makes the creation of a workers’ party (as a mass or at least semi-mass phenomenon) a top priority in the struggle for the socialist transformation of society.

I completely agree with these strategic goals.

The requirement for Anti Austerity Alliance membership is straight-forward – agreement with what the AAA stands for:

What We Stand For

  • Abolition of the Property/Home Tax. No to Water taxes, metering & to privatisation and profiting from water.
  •  Defend our council and public services. No more cuts or erosion of worker’s pay and conditions.
  • Our Councillors will not go into coalitions or make deals with the austerity Parties
  • (FF, FG, LP) and will not participate in junkets or the gravy train.
  •  We support a united movement of all affected by home taxes and austerity. We oppose divisions based on race, nationality, gender or age.
  •  End the bailout of the banks and bondholders. No to all Austerity – ordinary people have paid enough.
  •  Tax the Wealthy as the alternative to austerity: For progressive taxation on the wealthy and corporate sector.
  •  Public investment to create jobs, stop emigration and provide housing and socially useful infrastructure.
  •  Planning for the community, not for developers or vested interests.
  •  For mortgage debt write-down to real house values to keep struggling families in their homes. The banks should be run in the public interest and to assist in economic recovery.
  • Save our health, education and social services – reverse the cuts and restore staff levels.

(Taken from the AAA web site)

People who read my blog or know me in person will be aware that while my overall political views go far beyond this I would agree these are supportable reforms within the context of capitalism – as is true for any Socialist Party member of the AAA who like me also wants to go further than this and completely end capitalism as a social system.

I look forward to participating in the struggle to build a workers’ party with a programme capable of overthrowing the rotten capitalist system.


Some questions for the Socialist Party

Some Questions for the Socialist Party

In the wake of their successful day school on Saturday 26 November (“Dangerous Ideas – A Day of Anti-Capitalist Debate”) the Socialist Party in Cork are holding an “Open Meeting – Q & A About Socialist Ideas” this evening (Tuesday 29 November).

Here are a couple of questions about some core ideas of Marxism for them to consider:

Do socialist ideas include an intransigent opposition to all imperialist wars?

If so why did Jess Spears, speaking for the SP’s sister party in the USA, Socialist Alternative, describe Bernie Sanders, who has a long-standing record of consistently supporting US imperialism’s wars around the world, as being “a socialist who had fought for a political revolution”?

Are the core ideas outlined in Lenin’s pamphlet “State and Revolution” essential components of socialist ideas?

If so why does the Socialist Party give such a huge emphasis to the capitalist parliament as the vehicle for socialist change as compared to Lenin’s emphasis on the workers’ council model?

And why does the Socialist Party put forward it’s reformist “community control” approach to the capitalist state rather than Lenin’s revolutionary approach of “smashing” and replacing the capitalist state?


Report on the Socialist Party’s “Dangerous Ideas” day school – Cork 26 November 2016

I think the Socialist Party would have been very pleased with the day. Based on the number of leaflets I gave out (to over 80% of the attendees) and my headcount of the individual sessions I would say there were easily over 100 who attended at least one of the sessions. Other than for my leaflet and contributions there was no alternative from the left to the Socialist Party’s timid version of revolutionary socialism.

The first session “Women Rising Around the World” saw a good crowd in attendance. I counted approximately 60 people present, mostly young (average age would have been under 30 even accounting for the couple of old folks like myself), fairly even in gender balance and a decent smattering of non-European ethnicity for an event in Cork city.

(That is my baldy head at the back nearest to the camera)

The presentations about the situation for women in Poland, South Korea and South America were informative though heavily tilted towards a feminist perspective with only SP member Fiona Ryan initially identifying herself as a “socialist feminist” on the 4-women panel. The discussion after the presentations was also mostly from a feminist perspective and this saw a reflection in Fiona’s summary where she twice described herself as a feminist without the socialist prefix.

I mentioned this slip to Fiona after the session and she was genuinely surprised that she had described herself that way. It is hard not to see this as an unconscious adaptation to the predominant political tone in the meeting and is perhaps instructive about some more serious political departures from Marxism that were to occur later in the day.

The second session, a debate between the Socialist Party and Sinn Fein “Does a Left Government Need to Break with Capitalism?” saw a significant change in the demographic of the audience – now primarily male and much older (I was now far from the oldest person in the room). It was also smaller at around 45.

Mick Barry spoke for the Socialist Party and Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire for Sinn Féin.

Mick pointed to the SYRIZA government in Greece had initially implemented various radical reforms but when faced with pressure from European capitalism they backed down and took on the programme of austerity demanded of them. Mick assured the audience that unlike SYRIZA any left government the SP were involved in would not back down when faced with a similar fork in the road. They would go forward to nationalise the banks along with the wealth of the 1% and reach out to similar movements across Europe and around the world to spread the revolution.

Sinn Féin on the other-hand would capitulate at that fork in the road and will also moderate their demands in the here and now. Mick used the campaign against the water charges as evidence of SF doing exactly that with their refusal to call for a boycott of the charges and their central leaders initially saying they would pay the charge.

Despite Mick repeatedly using the SYRIZA government as a negative example he made no mention of the fact that this was a Popular Front government between SYRIZA and the right-wing capitalist Independent Greeks (ANEL). A strange omission for anyone claiming to be a Trotskyist as the struggle against Popular Frontism is one of the defining aspects of Trotsky’s political heritage.

This is also of importance in the context of a discussion between The Socialist Party and Sinn Féin and the various calls for “left unity” aimed at the two.

Mick stated that the SP would never enter a coalition government with any capitalist parties – listing who those capitalist parties were in the Irish context but of course leaving Sinn Féin out of that list. I referred to this in my contribution from the floor stating that Sinn Féin are an explicitly capitalist party who openly want to “foster business” (quote from their 2015 budget statement). Therefore if Mick was being consistent with his claim the SP would also rule out participation in a coalition with Sinn Féin as a matter of principle.

Mick tried to get around this in his summary when he responded to this aspect of my contribution by saying that effectively they had ruled out a coalition with Sinn Féin because the Right2Change platform Sinn Féin were part of held open the possibility of a coalition with capitalist Fianna Fáil.

This avoids dealing with the question of whether Sinn Féin are a capitalist party themselves. Mick finished his summary by rhetorically asking what would be the point of having this debate if a coalition with Sinn Féin was ruled out forever – though it would take a significant change in their policies for that to occur.

So it seems the Socialist Party believe Sinn Féin have a different class nature from Fianna Fáil. The “logic” of Mick’s position being that Sinn Féin are some kind of cross-class hybrid who currently have pro-capitalist policies but could at some time in the future change to having pro-working class policies.

From informal discussion with SP members my understanding is that this creative analysis is the result of the Socialist Party believing that there are illusions among a layer of working people that Sinn Féin really are a “left” party fighting for the interests of working people. It would therefore be a mistake to treat them the same as parties that “everyone knows are capitalist” like Fianna Fáil.

This fear of openly describing Sinn Féin as capitalist presumably, at least in part, comes from concern over getting as many preference votes from Sinn Féin voters as possible.

This position flies in the face of the political tradition the Socialist Party claim to stand in. Does anyone who has studied the writings and political life of Lenin and Trotsky seriously believe they would have come up with this kind of bizarre pseudo-Marxist analysis of Sinn Féin? Or would they have “stood against the stream” and told the “bitter truth” (Trotskyists or regular readers of my blog posts will get these references) to the working class? To even ask those questions are to answer them.

That truth is that Sinn Féin are a capitalist party and if in power would carry out policies no different in substance from those of Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael. That is the “bitter truth” any revolutionary Marxist worthy of the name should be telling the working class.

In my contribution I also pointed out that socialism was not just about bringing the economy into collective ownership but also about new forms of societal governance, based on the workers’ council model, which would be directly linked to a new form of state power that would replace the existing capitalist state. I pointed out that the SP focussed almost exclusively on the parliamentary road as the vehicle for socialist change and had an openly reformist approach to the capitalist state (“community control”).

Mick of course had nothing to say on these issues.

But the “best” expression of this craven parliamentarian opportunist distortion of Marxism was yet to come.

The final session was a panel with no discussion from the floor – “Challenging the Rule of the 1%”. One of the speakers was Jess Spear from the Socialist Party’s sister party in the USA, Socialist Alternative. During her presentation on building a fightback after Trump’s election Spears placed the primary blame for the result on the Democrats who had chosen such an unpopular establishment war-monger as Hilary Clinton when millions had voted for Bernie Sanders – “a socialist who had fought for a political revolution”!!!!

The bitter truth is that Bernie Sanders’ consistent voting with the capitalist Democratic Party over many years and his open and long-standing support for US imperialism’s wars of aggression around the world make the idea that he is any kind of “socialist” completely laughable. And these jokers want us to believe they would not politically capitulate to pressure from capitalism if they were to ever achieve parliamentary power? I’m sorry but this working class militant for one isn’t drinking that kool-aid.