some discussion on my election statement and related political views

My election statement generated a large degree of discussion on an email list for ULA non-aligned members. Not all non-aligned members of the ULA are on that email list so I post the discussion here as it may be of interest to any of them who read this blog and indeed other ULA members and leftists in general.



I think it is important that we start discussing the election statements of the people that are going to be representing us and in the case of people who are on this list that they could further expand on some of the points that may be limited by the space of a broad outline piece. As Alan is the first to publish a statement I would like to get the discussion started on that and some of Alan’s other positions on his website https://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/

I would like to hear what everyone thinks of the following passage from the statement;

“The ULA defends all advances for the working class against attacks by the capitalists. For me this necessarily should include the gains of the remaining countries where capitalism has been overthrown (China, Vietnam, Cuba and North Korea), while recognising the need for workers’ revolutions to overthrow their bureaucratic mis-rulers.”

I personally can’t see the advances of the working class in North Korea and can see the defence of North Korea alienating the working classes here and internationally from the ULA or any other leftist party that espouses such a position.  To me North Korea is a tyranny/ theocracy not worthy of defence on the grounds that it has advanced our class’ struggle.  It is of course worth analysing the nature of what has happened to North Korea including the role of imperialism.  I would really like Alan to expand on this point.  I of course have no problem calling for workers revolutions in the named countries.

Secondly something I came across on Alan’s website that is particularly worrying to me that I would like Alan to expand on, in case I am misrepresenting his position.  I am quoting from the following link.  https://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/for-a-revolutionary-socialist-programme-2/

“The new party must oppose restrictions on sexual expression and sexual choices among all those capable of informed consent and therefore should fight for; an end to all discrimination against lesbians, gays and other sexual minorities; no age of consent laws; and no state censorship, including of sexual material.”

Two of the lines stand out “no age of consent laws” and “no state censorship, including of sexual material”.  I don’t think current consent laws are up to the task. I am personally in favour of graduated age limits but to apparently deny that there are no differences in power dynamics between the ages if that is what Alan is espousing, to me is frankly very worrying.  To add that there should be “no state censorship, including of sexual material” well this leads me to a very worrying collision if we have no age of consent and no regulation of sexual material does this not lead to child pornography?  I really don’t want to be sensationalist about this topic so I won’t add emotionally charged language to judge what I feel about this position.  I will just make the political point that if the ULA were to espouse such a position to the working classes frankly I think that would be the end of any hope we have of winning over the masses. It would be disastrous if Alan gets elected to the national steering committee and the press get there hands on the same quotes as I just used.

I really hope I am wrong in my interpretations of both of the quotes I used. But as it stands I currently can not support Alan to represent me at the ULA steering group because of these two positions and also because it appears to me that Alan takes a very maximalist approach when what I believe is called for for the ULA to advance beyond even rules or structures is an actual willingness to advance the cause of working class power. The thing that to me has been broadly lacking from the ULA project so far is a cooperative spirit I don’t think that can be advanced by maximalist positions that in my opinion alienate the working classes and in fact are morally and ethically dubious to say the least.

In solidarity,
Brian S


Thanks for the feedback Brian. I guess these would be among the two most contentious issues for most people in the political programme I advocate. I’m glad to have the opportunity to elaborate on them.

I think it is just a matter of fact that the deformed workers states, as the political tradition I come from describes them, represent an advance for the working class. This is not of course in some absolute terms but in comparison to what capitalism meant, and would mean if restored, for the lives of working people in those countries.

Brian takes the most extreme example, North Korea, but I stand by my position even in this case. The overthrow of capitalism in North Korea was a good thing for the working people despite the fact that it resulted in the rule of a Stalinist bureaucracy.

Clearly North Korea today is very far from an ideal society and needs a genuine workers’ revolution but the real content of my position has to do with what to do if the existing society was threatened by a return to capitalist rule.

I think it is abundantly clear that the reintroduction of capitalism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe resulted in a social catastrophe for working people in those countries. (see http://www.bolshevik.org/1917/no24/USSR_Article.html for an analysis of this disaster in the concrete case of Russia)

The same would be true of North Korea. Things are bad there now but a return to capitalist rule would make it far worse. I think it is necessary for socialists to oppose that.

This does not mean that I defend the “tyranny/theocracy”, as Brian describes North Korea’s rulers. Indeed I am for a workers’ revolution to overthrow them. However if the Stalinist bureaucrats, or a section of them, fought back against an attempt to reintroduce capitalist rule then I would find myself on the same side.

That is what my position boils down to. It is not based on an assessment of these societies against an abstract scale of goodness but the concrete reality of the catastrophe for working people that capitalist restoration would mean (as capitalist restoration in Russia and Eastern Europe has proven).

If on the other hand you have believe that capitalist restoration would make no difference, or even perhaps have illusions that it would make things better, then of course you will draw different conclusions.

So on to Brian’s second point.

The key phrase here is “informed consent”. If people consent to participate in sexual activity then there is no crime. If someone is forced to have sex against their will then it is a crime irrespective of their own age or the age of the rapist.

I am not sure why Brian believes my position means I “deny that there are no differences in power dynamics between the ages”.Quite clearly such age-based power differentials do exist, alongside many other power differentials, in this society. These power differentials will express themselves in sexual relations, as with all human relationships, and should be taken into account in deciding whether sexual activity was consensual or not.

Unfortunately age of consent laws are not useful in dealing with the problem of rape.

In Ireland it is against the law for an 18 year old to have sex with a 16 year old irrespective of whether both parties are consenting or not. How is it useful to describe this as necessarily being a crime? In fact where such situations are criminalised it is often because the young people in question are targeted by the cops, or the parents are using the law to get rid of an unsuitable boyfriend. These laws can be part of the oppression of young people in society.

The truth is that people under the age of 17 can consent to sex, including with people older than themselves. Obviously the more extreme the age difference the more likely it is that the informed consent wasn’t given. For instance, to take an extreme example, it is difficult to conceive of a situation where a 3 year old could have consented, in any meaningful sense of the term, to sex with a 30 year old. But on the other hand is it possible for an 8 year old to consent to sexual touching with a 10 year old and is it a crime?

My position is that the issue of deciding whether a crime was committed in any instance of sexual activity should be based on an assessment of whether there was informed consent or not, rather than arbitrary categories of age of the participants.

The same arbitrariness comes into play with sexual images.

There is of course a very real social problem of people, particularly children, being coerced into sexual activity for the purpose of creating images for others to get sexual gratification.

But does state censorship of pornography help with stopping this? I don’t think it does.

There is no way, just by viewing it, of knowing if any image is an example of consensual or non-consensual sexual activity (except perhaps in the most extreme cases, but even then the capability of current image editing software makes that unclear).

Driving pornographic material underground through state censorship does not help protect anyone from being forced to participate in sexual activity against their will. Certainly there is no evidence that having stricter censorship laws makes a society less dangerous for those vulnerable to sexual exploitation. Indeed Ireland is an exact example of that. Did the legal restrictions on sexual activity and images stop the massive, almost institutionalised, child abuse that occurred in this country?

Once we allow that the state can determine what images, and words, we are allowed to see, this legislation will inevitably be used against the left or by censoring material based on consensual sexual relations that don’t fit the state/Church view of human sexuality (see my election statement on the role of the family).

The way we will actually rid society of the evil of sexual exploitation of children is by changing social relations. Through greater openness and education about sexuality. Through empowering people by providing the material basis of economic equality so that no-one is forced to sell themselves or their children into the sex trade. Through creating a new culture of freedom and respect between people in place of the fear, isolation and alienation of capitalism.

I hope this makes my position on the two issues raised by Brian a bit clearer. If anyone else has other questions regarding either of these issues or any other in my election statement or on my blog (revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com) please let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Alan G.



I really don’t think the ULA is going to progress in Ireland if we look at North Korea and come to the conclusion that it has somehow outgrown capitalism. It hasn’t and a proper analysis would come to the conclusion that North Korea will become a testing ground for a new form of capitalism which can market itself as the opposite. The only way a workers revolution will succeed there now is if the current regime is overthrown and everything it used to get into power is smashed also.

On age-of-consent laws, I really think this is a very small issue when the Left looks at sexuality in a capitalist society. We need to be focusing how sex is being used to sell almost everything around us and how it is being actively used to quell any political resistance in our young people. One just has to go onto any campus in Ireland and you will see how “being a sexual being” is considered much more mature and adult-worthy than being a person of resistance. I will draw on this in my election statement.

Joseph L



Thanks for your comments.

I think is pretty clear that capitalism was replaced by something in North Korea when the original state was set up in 1948, though there are various views on the exact nature of what replaced it.

Some on the left now argue, as Jim did, that the replacement to capitalism has morphed into a form of capitalism. I disagree and think it remains a post-capitalist society.

That being said I agree with you 100% that the key issue for workers in North Korea is a revolution to replace with the bureaucratic Kim dynasty with genuine workers rule.

But given the experience of Russia and Eastern Europe it is not unreasonable to at least consider how to respond to the reintroduction of capitalist rule.

On the age of consent laws I am not proposing making this a central issue for the ULA to campaign on in regard to general questions of sexuality – it wasn’t even in my election statement. It only became an issue on this list because Brian found it in another piece on my blog and asked me about it.

Alan G.


“If you go carryin’ pictures of Chairman Mao
You ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow”

– The Beatles, 1968

Des D


The Beatles were before my time, but I can appreciate the point 😉  It seems to me that along with left sectarianism, Stalinism and all of its legacies (from is ideological legacy in the West to regimes like North Korea), may be the most important issue that the left has to address before it can get an echo with the masses anywhere. Why is it that the left often gets less sympathy among the workers than the right does? Has this something to do with the view expressed by many on the left that ‘planned’ systems, such as exist in North Korea (remember that North Korea produced a famine the resulted in the deaths of 3.5 million people in the 1990s) are somehow an advance on capitalism? As far as I can see Stalinism only muddles & doesn’t ever really follow any plan. I don’t see any reason why those that oppose imperialism and privatisation have to defend North Korea’s basic economic arrangements (which rest on semi-forced labour). Stalinism atomises the workers, it actively prevents their formation into a class, pulvarises individuals so that they are neither able to act as individuals or as part of a collective, destroys the capacity of whole populations to share ideas, to think critically, to participate in the raising of class consciousness and to contribute to the development of any class struggle worth talking about. In my view, where ambiguous positions are taken on Stalinism (‘these are odious regimes but’ …. ‘on the one hand …. on the other’ ….), credibility is immediately handed to the right, which so often takes its stand on the ‘rights of the individual’, on human rights, on ‘freedom’ etc. In my view, so long as we defend the indefensible, we help to reproduce what may actually represent the biggest obstacle to socialism of all.

Just my two cents

Micael O


In the film ‘Goodbye to Lenin’ the family of an ill woman, a supporter of the GDR, who has missed the fall of the Wal, don’t wish her to be shocked when she comes around. One of the hoaxes they set up for her is an explanation that the demonstrations on television are against the West and that the masses are streaming from West to East. Of course, the masses were traveling from East to West, and as fast they could many of them.

Des D


For a description of the reality of the catastrophe that capitalist restoration has been for working people in the GDR read this piece from The Guardian –  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/nov/08/1989-berlin-wall

Alan G.


But the GDR was already a state capitalist state. Which suppressed a workers’ rising in 1953. The workers’ state suppressing the workers.

For a time Sachsenhausan was ‘borrowed’ by the new state to lock up its own ‘enemies’.

No doubt the takeover of the GDR by West Germany involved a kind occupation and colonisation. Nevertheless there can be no doubt that movement never was not from West to East. Noone was jumping the Wall in the other direction. And the vast majority of those who remember it would not go back to the suveillance of the the Stasi.

Des D


I’m with The Beatles on this one.

As far as I’m concerned, we’re re-building the socialist movement – from a very, very low level. I don’t think conflating that publicly with murderous, feudal dictatorships of the last century is helpful, to say the least.

Shane F


Well leaving aside the issue of whether there is anything such as “state capitalism” I don’t dispute that people moved from East to West, nor that anyone would have fond memories of the Stasi, nor that the GDR deformed workers’ state suppressed a workers uprising (that I would have supported) in 1953.

But it is unclear to me what these truths (other than using “state capitalism” to describe a society where there was no capital) have to do with the reality of the social catastrophe that resulted from capitalist restoration.

Alan G.


I would certainly hope that no-one would be publicly conflating socialism with the the viciously anti-working class bureaucratic rule of the deformed workers states – or privately for that matter

Alan G.


I suspect that social catastrophe was made all the worse (in Russia for instance) because the workers were left with no means of defending themselves from privatisation, and from the kleptocrats that gutted and destroyed everything else. I’m no expert on the topic, but as far as I know Stalinism permitted no genuinely independent organisations of the working class and destroyed the possibility of class solidarity. If so, then it is not really that surprising that living conditions sank so rapidly. I agree that there is a problem with using a concept like “state capitalism” to refer to societies where there was no capital, but I don’t see how they can be properly described as any kind of workers’ state either, unless a feudal society can be described as a serfs’ state, or a the city states in ancient Greece can be described as slaves’ states. I can’t see any conceptual clarity or precision in either label. Unless ‘state capitalism’ just means an exploitative state, and ‘deformed workers’ state’ just means that at one point the workers could have taken control of the state & democratised control over the means of production – but I think that this was only ever true of Russia.

Micheal  O


I would agree that the lack of independent organisations of the working class made resistance to the privatisation and associated social horrors resulting from the reintroduction of capitalism more difficult to resist

I am also quite happy to use another descriptive term for these societies, deformed workers state is merely the one used by the tradition I come from. “Post-capitalist dystopia” or something similar might be a shorthand we could agree on for the purposes of this discussion?

Perhaps an analogy might help make my position a bit clearer (and I realise that any analogy is only indicative and not exact but still it might help explain my thinking)..

What is our position on the trade unions as they currently exist in Ireland?

They have a leadership that is more-or-less openly pro-capitalist and consistently betrays their members. We are for their replacement by a new class struggle leadership.

They are bureaucratically deformed institutions which require a complete overhaul in their internal functioning to become democratic organs of the workers’ movement.

But if these bureaucratically deformed trade unions, with their sell-out leaders, had their very existence threatened by the Irish capitalist state then I assume we would be for defending the unions against being outlawed. We would do so without conflating the unions as they exist now with the organs of class struggle our class really needs or renouncing our programme for a new class struggle leadership and democratic reorganisation of the unions.

I think the same methodology, with all reservations of social scale taken into account, can be used in the case of the post-capitalist dystopias when threatened with capitalist restoration.

Alan G.


The question of defence of these post-capitalist dystopias is not in terms of some abstract scale but only in terms of what capitalist restoration would mean for working people and should socialists be concerned about that.

I am for a revolution in these kind of societies and I frankly find it a bit annoying to have it repeatedly implied that I give political support to their viciously anti-working class regimes, when I actually want to see those overthrown.

What my critics are unable to deal with is the social reality of what capitalist restoration has meant wherever it has occurred in these societies – it has been a social catastrophe of unprecedented dimensions for working people. And this is not the deluded ravings of some mad ultra-left giving back-hand political support to Stalinism but the findings of the UN – see the analysis of what happened to Russia in that article I linked to.

I find it disappointing that those who express such concern for the working people against the Stalinist tyranny in these countries are apparently much less concerned by this very real disaster for the lives of those self-same workers that resulted from capitalist restoration and don’t think it is something to be opposed or even recognised as a problem.

Alan G.


And Alan thus raises another aspect of his election statement: his misunderstanding of the the trade unions and misleading perspective on trade union work for the ULA. He is wrong on both sides: that the state capitalist regimes should be defended – from their own populations it seems – and that the trade unions are institutions opposed to the working class. Indeed our trade unions would not have been tolerated for one week in the Soviet Union and a feature of Chinese development will soon be a struggle for free trade unions.

The stalinist states were/are violent and totalitarian machines directed at the suppression, or at times limitation, of the slightest democratic freedom and at the exploitation by the state bureaucracy of the working class. The Irish trade unions are the main defense organisations of the working class, which willy nilly organises, to varying degrees, the class struggle on a daily basis at the point of production. This level of defence and offence, low though it sometimes may be, constitutes the difference between a non-union and an organised workplace.

The trade unions are of course dominated by a bureaucracy that must be opposed with a struggle for trade union democracy and independence from the state and the bosses. This struggle may never be fully successful under capitalism. However the difference between SIPTU and the Soviet Union is that SIPTU is an organisation of the working class movement and the Soviet Union was a state that crushed any sign of independent working class organisation. SIPTU is dominated by a full time bureaucracy which has its own interests but depends as much on
representing the members as dampening their struggle. Depending on the level of shop floor and rank and file organisation, and militant mood, the members can push the leadership into action or bypass them with their own organised action through the Branches, sections and committees. The unions clearly are organs of class struggle, the best we have at present, whereas the stalinist states were/are terror machines, dictatorships in which trade union, assembly, free press, suffrage and all the rights won in the West, were/are non existent. The old maxim still pertains: we support the union officials when they are leading the fight and we oppose them when they are selling it out.

Alan’s electoral statement proposes that the ULA organises in the unions as ULA political fractions or branches. It rejects the crucially fundamental work of building a rank and file movement, or in today’s possibilities, a rank and file or grassroots network at least, which unites all militant union activists, of all political affiliations and none, into an organised alternative to the bureaucracy. An alternative leadership within the existing, not breakaway or isolated miniscule, trade unions. The ULA has made a start in beginning to build such a grassroots complex, with its close support for the Trade Union Activists Network (TUAN). It is I fear, with its recent inactivity, yet another false start to building such a focus or campaign in the unions. There is no avoiding the job though. The left cannot recruit a factory or an office and take them into an industrial dispute to win better pay or conditions. The left cannot support a prolonged strike for union recognition. The unions are necessary. Within them we can operate. As a political organisation eventually, but first in rank and file groupings alongside all trade unionists seeking change.

Des D


Good grief Des – on what basis do you argue my programme includes the idea that “trade unions are institutions opposed to the working class”.

I quite clearly explained that I was making an analogy and the elements that were similar are the ones that you yourself outline. It does not help political discussion to distort political positions in this way.

It is true that I am for the ULA organise its members inside the trade unions on a distinct political basis:

“As the ULA becomes a party, we need to go beyond this, forming caucuses that fight within the unions for our programme, rather than being submerged in generic anti-bureaucratic rank and file movements.”

This would seem to be a real political difference with Des who apparently does think that it is necessary for the ULA to participate in building a generic anti-bureaucratic rank and file movement and only “eventually” organise separately as the ULA.

It is clear that there will be a need for rank and file movements against the bureaucracy within which the ULA will participate.

I think this should be done on the basis of the ULA as a clearly distinct political force within the unions organised around our programme.

This seems exactly the same as how we should organise in campaigns and movements outside the trade unions. How does Des think we should intervene in campaign movements like the one against the household and water taxes? I think we should do so as the ULA on the basis of our distinct political programme – and political activity in the trade unions should be the same.

Alan G.


It is also incorrect to say that I am for defending the regimes of the post-capitalist dystopias.

I am for defending the gains of these societies which would be lost if capitalism was restored. The catastrophe caused by capitalist restoration in Russia and Eastern Europe shows that there were real material things about these societies which capitalism would take away.

This is not to say these societies were perfect, indeed they needed revolutions to overthrow their bureaucratic rulers.

But there were real material gains that needed to be defended. This is the problem with describing these societies as “state capitalist” as it disappears these very real gains and provides no explanation for the disaster that resulted from capitalist restoration.

Alan G.



With respect to Cuba (or wherever else free healthcare, education etc. is available to the working class) I don’t think there many on the left that wouldn’t defend any clearly observable benefits to working people. But, as I understand it, being a socialist means opposing all conditions in which human beings are humiliated, limited, exploited, coerced, or prevented from thinking and acting together in their own interests. I think you agree that we must oppose Stalinism in all of its manifestations, while supporting every condition that enables the workers to develop the capacity to win their own gains, and to defend the gains they have won by themselves. But under Stalinist regimes the workers can never develop these capacities, and where these regimes eventually lose (or relinquish) control over political and economic life, the workers are in no position to take control, or even to defend whatever minimimum standard of living they previously had. Clearly, you are opposed to Stalinist rule, but people are bound to jump to other conclusions if it is implied that any gains emerging through Stalinism that can be defended apart from it. No one can defend the gains of the workers other than the workers themselves. We have to support them wherever they defend their interests, but also where they attempt to free themselves from all limitiations on their capacity to organise. But how do you defend gains and oppose the restoration of capitalism in these countries if the workers cannot do it on their own account? If the only force standing behind those gains is a Stalinist bureaucracy (perhaps the greatest enemy the working class has ever known apart from facism), how do you defend these gains other than through the preservation of the existing Stalinist arrangements?

Micheal O


Is not the current position in North Korea equivalent to the Ukraine during the artificial famines cased by Stalinism. These surely negated any gains of the revolution. The collapse if the USSR is a given. But even there we have to avoid looking like we are on the same side as the Stazi.I am glad that you are not a Stalinist but the Spartacists tend to apologitics in these debates.Here and in Britain the tendencies that leap to the defence of North Korea are also the most Stalinist. The term “tankie” comes to mind. Indeed some look forward to the day when they can deal with the likes of us in a similar way to “Uncle Joe”.

I would add that many of the economic gains of the USSR proved to be incredible lies.


Jim M


I am going to have to challenge this apparent consensus that under Stalinism there was no possibility of the working class organising itself to pose the possibility of overthrowing the bureaucracy. I think this is simply buying into bourgeois propaganda and does not reflect the reality of what happened in those countries.

For instance how does this explain 1953, 1956, 1968 when political revolutions to overthrow the Stalinist bureaucracy were on the agenda?

Perhaps it might be argued that these examples were long ago and Stalinism wasn’t as entrenched and the atomisation and demoralisation of the working class less complete.

But then lets look at a more recent example, near the end of these societies in Eastern Europe – Poland in the 1980s?

Micheal you tell us that “under Stalinist regimes the workers can never develop” “the capacity to win their own gains, and to defend the gains they have won by themselves”.

In Poland a mass workers organisation in the form of Solidarity was created that threatened the continued rule of the Stalinist bureaucracy. Unfortunately the political struggle within Solidarity over its programmatic direction saw it fall under the leadership of pro-capitalists but still it is clear that in the period leading up to that a mass workers organisation with exactly “the capacity to win their own gains, and to defend the gains they have won by themselves” was able to be created under a Stalinist regime.

Also look at Russia and the organisation of workers, particularly in the mines, that was occurring in the 1980s. While it seems they were for the most part neutral during the conflict in Russia in 1991 it is also clear that they did exist as an independent force.

Your statement that such developments are impossible under Stalinist bureaucratic regimes is simple proven untrue by the facts.

My programme does not look to passive support to the Stalinist regimes but rather to the independent organisation of the working class. But what should any such independent revolutionary socialist forces do if capitalist restorationists make a play for power? Should they sit idly by because some sections of the Stalinist bureaucracy, for their own reasons, choose to resist that? Of course not – if capitalist restoration was going to represent a qualitatively greater danger to the lives and living standards of working people (and history has shown this to clearly have been the case) then I believe revolutionary socialists had to resist that irrespective of what the Stalinist bureaucrats did or did not do.

A position of sitting on the sidelines in a conflict between the two enemies of the working class (Stalinist bureaucrats and capitalist restorationists) only makes sense if what was at stake was of little importance. Just look at the UN’s, and other sources,analysis quoted in the article I referred to (http://www.bolshevik.org/1917/no24/USSR_Article.html) – and then tell me that was of no importance and revolutionary socialists had no side.

If we are unable to recognise existing partial gains for the working class and seek to defend them when they are threatened then we will not be able to conquer new ones.

Alan G.



I agree that a complete political separation needs to be kept from the Stalinists and I think my position that calls for working class revolutions to consign them to the dustbin of history does exactly that.

But the key to the difference here is over the question of whether there was anything to be defended.

I believe that the question of whether capitalist restoration was a social and economic catastrophe for working people is simply a matter of fact.

I challenge anyone to read the United Nations Development Programme’s “Human Development Report For Central and Easter Europe and the CIS” that is cited in the IBT article I have referred to and honestly tell me that capitalist restoration in these countries was anything other than a social and economic catastrophe for working people.

I think socialists had a side in opposing the capitalist restorationists because we should have known that was going to happen. I certainly think that with the advantage of hindsight socialists should therefore oppose any moves towards capitalist restoration in the countries of this type that remain. And once again to make it clear – this is independent of the Stalinist bureaucracies and however they may respond, indeed the reality is that some, perhaps even many, of those bureaucrats are going to be found among the forces of capitalist restoration.

As regards North Korea I think there is a lot of capitalist propaganda which negatively distorts reality but still it does seem clear that conditions there are horrendous for working people – but the issue at debate here is not whether this is a socialist wonderland that we aspire to (it is not) but what capitalist restoration would mean. I believe that this would result in a a social catastrophe which would make the already miserable lives of North Korean working people immensely worse – therefore I have no choice but to oppose it.

If people have illusions that the capitalists would make the lives of North Korean workers better, or at least let them remain the same, while bringing them the freedoms of bourgeois democracy then there is no doubt a case to take a different position.

I have no such illusions in what the capitalists would do if they were to take power in North Korea and my position flows from that accordingly.

Alan G.



Ranging wide beyond a manifesto.

But. Obviously not all these regimes are totally controlled with no democratic space at all. In Germany in 1953, there was still a Social Democratic tradition and other independent workers still had a space. Hungary and Poland had splits in the party and a little bit of paralysis which allowed some space. North Korea. Incredible repression. If there is a split in the bureaucracy it will e bloody. Funnily Imperialism does not want a collapse and the destabilising effect this might have.

Cuba is different. The late Celia Hart shows that it is not a totally repressive state. Vietnam is evolving in a Chines direction. But except for a shortlived springtime independent working class parties and unions were very weak with the collapse of the USSR.

The replacement of the bureaucracy by a gangster ruling class has had devastating effects in the USSR. I ma not so sure of this vis a vis at least the GDR.  A restoration in Cuba would be a catastrophe.

Oh another post you raised the question of Irish Troops abroad. This should be opposed no matter how dressed up. In Chad they acted effectively to defend French Imperial interests in Chad. In the Lebanon they act as a buffer for the Zionsts. In Kabul. they must be mad.We should make an issue of the Battlegroups, an EU army, ready to inforce Imperialism.

No Irish Troops abroad.Or Gardai.(Do we need an army?)

Elections are important, but they are only one arena of struggle. Vita Cortex does not wait for an election victor etc.

Conor McCabe has critiqued the policy of total dependence on foreign capital and the distorting effects on developement. We are caught with an artificial corporation tax level ( which distorts our economy).

Though I am more than sceptical of Keynesianism in one country as well as Socialism in one country. The depression is not something a small country (or even a large one) can opt out of it. The struggle against it has to be international. Neither us nor the Greeks can win alone.


Jim M


No real disagreement with any of that Jim.

Alan G.



I agree with some of what you say below. Though I don’t use your word ‘impossible’, it is certainly implied in what I wrote. The sentence “under Stalinist regimes the workers can never develop these capacities” should probably have been “under Stalinist regimes the workers cannot usually develop these capacities” – since the level of surveillance, control, censorship, punishment etc. was/is different within the different countries concerned. As you might point out, there were real differences in that respect between Poland, GDR and Russia, as there are today, between Cuba and North Korea.

Micheal O


Apologies I interpreted your use of “never develop” to mean you thought it was impossible.

I of course agree that the possibilities for these developments are different in each of the countries due to their individual specifics and from what I know of North Korea that possibility would indeed seem quite small.

Alan G.


8 Responses to “some discussion on my election statement and related political views”

  1. 1 Mark P
    April 24, 2012 at 17:28

    I realise that the discussion stemmed from other people’s questions to you, rather than your personal choice of issues to discuss, but I find it slightly bizarre that the issue which seems to have attracted most comment in a discussion about elections to the steering committee of the ULA is exactly which precise critique of the North Korean regime should be adopted. That’s like a caricature of fossilised left wing debate, divorced from the real concerns of building a movement here in Ireland.

    All of the people in the debate are hostile to the North Korean dictatorship and all of them would be appalled by the idea that North Korea (or Stalinism in general) is some kind of model of socialism. Beyond that, and opposing a Western invasion of the place, I’m not sure how this is remotely relevant to the issue of building a mass working class party in Ireland. It is just about the last issue on earth I could imagine using as the basis for my vote to any position in this country. Quite apart from anything else, these people are going to be asked to endorse an entire steering committee which includes representatives of organisations which in theory hold different critiques of Stalinism, so, unless some lunatic is actually in favour of splitting the ULA over this irrelevancy, they are going to end up voting for people they disagree with on this question anyway!

    As an aside, I”m a bit confused by your description of this “email list for ULA non-aligned members”, given that at least one of the participants in the exchange you quote above is, to the best of my recollection, a prominent member of People Before Profit. Is some idiosyncratic definition of “non-aligned” being used, which actually includes people aligned with one of the main affiliates?

    • April 24, 2012 at 17:45

      I too found it interesting that this issue, which isn’t likely to have much of an impact on ULA operations in the foreseeable future, was the main concern raised with my election statement. It is unclear to me how much of an impact it will have on the voting preferences of people.

      I am not the moderator of the email list this comes from – I had thought that all the members of the list, including all those that participated in this discussion, were non-aligned.

      • 3 Mark P
        April 24, 2012 at 18:42

        It’s not that I think, by the way, that it is pointless to discuss different analyses of Stalinism. The subject is interesting and is, in some circumstances, important. There’s no reason at all why it shouldn’t be debated within the ULA, in fraternal manner. But, at least within the broad parameters of (a) opposing the NK dictatorship, (b) not thinking that it is remotely a model for socialists to follow and (c) opposing a Western invasion, I don’t see what possible relevance the precise details of someone’s hostile attitude to a dictatorship on other side of the earth should have to deciding who to put on a steering committee of a left political formation here.

        Put it this way: If the Socialist Party started banging on at length about how state capitalism is a fundamentally incoherent analysis of what was wrong with Stalinism, or the SWP started banging on about the centrality of a state capitalist analysis, in the context of deciding who should or should not be on the ULA steering committee, I think that independent members of the ULA would rightly think that the organisation concerned was taking a bizarre sectarian turn.

        On the list thing: One of the people you were arguing against above was very definitely a prominent member of the PBPA up until a year or two ago. It is possible that he has since left that organisation. I’m not even sure if the PBPA actually functions any more.

  2. 4 redarmyleader
    April 24, 2012 at 17:54

    Admitting that I have to read over both your election statement and that I barely read the discussion that you posted up I have to ask on which basis do you classify China as deformed workers state? I agree with the position of defending deformed workers state, but China does not fit that bill. Why do you think so?

  3. 5 Mark P
    April 24, 2012 at 18:50

    By the way, have the other election statements also attracted any discussion? (I’m not asking you to repost that discussion, I’m just curious about whether it exists).

    Personally, and I quite rightly don’t have a vote, I’d be a little more concerned about some of the things in Joe’s statement than I would be about the views of any candidate on whether North Korea is state capitalist / proletarian bonapartist / a deformed workers state / bureacratic collectivist / whatever. In particular, it uses the term “sectarian” in an extremely loose and misleading manner, seemingly including things like affiliates disagreeing with each other in that category. And he talks in a very imprecise way about organising in the North, so that it isn’t clear if he’s pushing for it as a long term aspiration or a short term proposal. The latter would produce a series of massive and counterproductive rows.

    • April 24, 2012 at 23:43

      Not really much other discussion. I asked Joe to expand on some issues he hadn’t covered. Jim refers to some of them in one of his later emails.

    • April 24, 2012 at 23:52

      We did have a discussion about what “sectarian” means though I can’t say I’m entirely sure what it means for everyone. I put forward my view that it is refusing to do joint work with others in defence of our class where there is agreement on the immediate issue but this isn’t done because of other political differences or bureaucratic/opportunist reasons. People seemed to recognise this as a problem but “sectarian” is being used in a different way by Joseph and others among the non-aligned but I am not completely clear what that is.

      • 8 Mark P
        April 25, 2012 at 20:48

        There is a certain strand of left independent who essentially sees organised disagreement on the left, whether about politics or tactics, as “sectarianism”. You must be familiar with this attitude, which is common in most countries.

        In the context of the ULA, that’s likely to mean some people who don’t want to join particular affiliates regarding anything the affiliated groups do as groups as “sectarianism”, whether that be work on some issue outside the structures of the ULA or disagreeing with each other within the ULA. The same type of attitude would tend to view attempts to, for instance, set up a new affiliate based around a particular programmatic view within the ULA as “sectarian”.

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