Its official – SF oppose boycott of water charges



Audio of my presentation at IBT public meeting last month

My presentation at the public meeting in Cork on 1 February 2015 “Working Class vs Water Charges: Mass Action or Electoral Dead Ends?


Cobh Says No contingent in the local St Patrick’s Day parade

The lead banner


The float


The marching contingent


Stall selling calendars, bus tickets for 21 March and distributing newsletters and window posters



Right2Water electoralism – no pretence any more

Everyone involved in the anti-water charges movement in Ireland will have noticed the plans of Right2Water to launch some kind of electoral bloc (based on a “Platform for Renewal” that will be decided at a conference on 1st & 2nd May) for the upcoming elections.

I can’t help but remember the indignation and denials which greeted the analysis of myself and others about the electoralism driving Right2Water as expressed in their “2015 – The Year We Change Ireland” statement. (https://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/…/12/31/2303/)

It seems I was spot on after-all….


In their own words – SP on the capitalist state

The AAA have now posted the speeches from the Cork public meeting and in reviewing those I’ve looked a bit more closely at one issue where what the SP/AAA outline as a political problem is completely at odds with the concrete programme they propose for dealing with that problem.

Here is Paul’s speech to the meeting followed by some quotes from various points in it:

…it isn’t new for the state to be used to defend the interests of the rich, of the elite, of the powerful in society. That’s what happens, that’s the role of the state in our society.

Paul gives various examples of working class activists facing imprisonment for standing up for workers’ rights and then repeats the same point on the role of the state:

…so this happens – fundamentally the state operates to defend the interests of the rich.

Later on Paul returns to this issue in more detail:

…in many respects the different arms of the system are doing the work of socialists right now, they’re exposing themselves right now, they’re exposing the reality of how we do not live in a free and democratic society. How we live in a society, precisely as Joe said, that is a dictatorship of the markets, a dictatorship of the rich.

One of the other factors that they hate, because it exposes that reality, is they hate it when we say political policing, when we say political judging. Because it cuts right through the legal formalism at the heart of how politics is taught, and how democracy is taught. It’s this idea, that nobody in the real world actually believes right, but the politicians believe it even though they act against it, and sections of the media believe it. It’s the idea that we have the Dáil over here, the government over here, the Gardaí over here, the judges over here and that they’re completely separate from each other, they all operate completely independently. Everybody knows that’s not what happens because we expose it by calling it out, by saying political policing, by saying political judging.

That it doesn’t mean that Joan Burton has to lift the phone to get onto the Garda Commissioner to say come on here, arrest Paul Murphy, he’s bothering me in the Dáil at the moment. That’s not how it has to work because it’s one rotten system, different arms of the same rotten system, people who come from the same class, they represent, they have the same world view, the same outlook of the economic and political establishment in this country. It’s not an accident the top Gardaí are appointed by the government, the judges are appointed by the government, and so they all reflect the outlook of an establishment that is incredibly scared of what’s happening and is looking to use repression to cut across it.

This is all a pretty accurate representation of social reality in my view – under capitalism policing and judging is always political.

The logical solution for any revolutionary socialist (as the SP describe themselves) would therefore surely be to call for replacing this rotten institution with a new one based on the democratic organs of working class self-organisation that Paul correctly counterposes to the fake democracy of capitalism elsewhere in his speech.

But how does the actual programme of the SP/AAA deal with this problem of the role of the state in defending the interests of the capitalist’s dictatorship as part of that state’s intrinsic nature?

Instead of a revolutionary Marxist position the underlying reformism of the SP comes to the fore so instead they propose tweaking the governance of the Gardaí within the existing capitalist framework. As if this could overcome the fact the Gardaí are one arm of the rotten capitalist system and their policing is therefore inherently pro-capitalist:

We demand that this political policing is brought to an end. The Gardaí should have no role to play in policing community campaigns and struggles by working class people. Democratic community control over the Gardaí is needed as an alternative to the Gardaí being run as a centralised force led by a Government-appointed Commissioner.


Report on AAA public meeting in Cork on 5 March 2015


Somewhere between 200 and 250 people attended the AAA event “Water, Protests, Elections- Building a New Movement for Working Class People” in Cork on Thursday 5 March 2015. The demographic was tilted towards the over-50s with only a sprinkling of younger faces there to hear Cork councillor Mick Barry and TDs Joe Higgins and Paul Murphy (all members of the SP). I distributed just over 100 copies of the IBT leaflet “No payment! No meters! Abolish the water charges!” at the meeting which saw the AAA gain a good number of new recruits.

Mick and Joe’s presentations overwhelmingly emphasised the electoral side to the AAA’s perspective and were enthusiastic about the potential for electing AAA and other anti-austerity candidates to the Dáil. Paul gave a more rounded presentation about the need to replace capitalism as a system and repeatedly linking this to working class organisation outside the structures of capitalist democracy, though his emphasis was still somewhat titled towards the elections.

This electoral focus was clearly illustrated in a flyer encouraging attendees to join the AAA. It emphasised the election of AAA TDs and councillors and concluded with three points under the heading “Building a fighting anti-austerity alternative”:

  • This Government is hated, and Labour especially will be decimated at the General Election, but no party represents working class people. The choice for many is either the austerity parties, pro big-business independents or Sinn Féin, who refuse to seriously fight austerity or water charges.
  • The battle against the Water Charges is one of the most significant mass struggles in generations. Mass non-payment can sink Irish Water and put the Government under huge pressure. The AAA has been to the fore in building the boycott in communities across the country.
  • We also need to elect fighters in the next general election that stand for non-payment and abolition of water charges, as well as committed to resisting all austerity measures. The AAA will be launching a major challenge to all the austerity parties in the next election.

Pat from People Before Profit/SWP asked Paul to elaborate on the state of play in discussions for left unity at the elections. In his reply Paul argued for an independent left bloc that was genuinely anti-austerity and that this would have to exclude Sinn Féin as their record in the North showed they were prepared to make deals with the establishment and their claims to be “the Syriza of Ireland” were therefore just an electoral trick to tap into the sentiment for real change. While it wasn’t a direct challenge to the SWP’s willingness to be part of a left-slate with Sinn Féin this seemed a fairly clear sub-text to me. The irony is that Syriza is making exactly those kind of deals with the European imperialists, so perhaps Sinn Féin’s claim does have some validity.

Paul finished his presentation with a reference to the importance of working class people being involved in discussion around the ideas of fighting for socialist change and challenging the rule of the capitalists. It was in that spirit that I made my contribution to the discussion.I picked up on comments made by Joe and Paul that pointed to the need for a socialist alternative to capitalism but contrasted this to the concrete programme of the AAA that advocates only a series of reforms to make capitalism nicer. If you are going to talk about “putting economic and political power in the hands of the working class” then you need a programme that presents a path towards that future.

I referred positively to Paul’s comments that their ideas are based on “a different model – of state power being in the hands of working people organised in their communities” and how the democracy of working class people actively organised in politics on the streets and in campaigns like the anti-water charges movement was fundamentally different from the capitalist democracy of the Dáil and Councils. I pointed to the development of groups like Cobh Says No to Austerity within the anti-water charges movement that were the beginnings of that working class alternative in embryo. I noted the weakness of any regional and national coordination on that basis and criticised the AAA for not being committed to creating such community-based groups themselves. In response I was heckled with the names of various suburbs on the north-side of Cork city (where Mick Barry has his electoral base). I countered that if such organisations existed I looked forward to seeing them respond positively to the calls by Cobh and other groups for regional coordination.

On reflection it is clear to me that the hecklers were referring to branches of the AAA/We Won’t Pay rather than inclusive community-based groups like Cobh Says No to Austerity or Mahon Says No. It is hard to see the SP being prepared to run the risk of allowing any expression of genuine workers’ democracy threatening their control of these groups as an electoral machine to get Mick Barry elected to the Dáil.




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