2 Responses to “Review of “A Social Democratic Manifesto for Ireland””

  1. August 17, 2013 at 17:35

    The development of cooperatives can be a practical push in the direction towards social control of production. An encouragement of these to centralise and use planning can undermine value. The introduction of various measures to directly lower the need for wages through social planning of housing and transport will further eliminate value. These are constructive socialising measures which can in fact exist under capitalism. The contention that I simply want to manage capitalism is not true, and neither is it a gambit hiding a true intention as you imply.

    Former social democratic parties were did make mistakes in confusing nationalisation with socialisation, and with paying too little attention to the development of finance which would not be subject to control by capitalists. Notably the Bennites were better than even many of the communist parties, but they, predictably, lost the faction fight in the Labour party. The Meidner plan was a very practical plan to move the control of production of unions into the hands of union members. These things have been thought about in far more detail and with more attention to the real goal then you seem to have been aware.

    The bit about parliamentarism is not very politicaly honest of you. I have stated various different planks of civil society that we will need. We will need media, social centres, movements, single issue campaigns, unions, and social institutions and clubs, not to mention, most vitally, a vibrant socialist party. To claim me as a parliamentarian cretin is simply not fair.

    In terms of debt repudiation, you haven’t thought through clearly what the repercussions of a total default would be. There are in fact many peoples pensions that are owed, many different schools, hospitals and various different public enterprises owed and there is the case of various different foreign workers that need to be kept in the loop about such hair cuts. I don’t mind completely repudiating the ECB debt, but it is not the case that you can conduct these things without careful thought. This is exactly the reason that I’m very wary of “revolutionism” since the most radical suggestion is thought on face value to be the best without further reflection. Demanding things that ensure you will lose may be revolutionary, but it’s also stupid.

    • August 18, 2013 at 10:56

      Having met you I am fairly sure that your personal intentions are genuinie and you really believe that what you outline is the most conducive path towards establishing socialism at some time in the future. However I am not critiquing your personal intentions, I am critiquing your stated intentions in the form of the programme and political perspective you have written down.

      It is no doubt true that cooperatives can be something of a training ground for the working class in how to run socialised property but it is also the case that they remain a form of capitalist ownership of competing units of capital and in-of-themselves do not lead towards a transformation of the economic base of society.

      I don’t see how a capitalist state, no matter how “fair”, providing social housing and transport so that wages can be lower would “eliminate value” – please explain.

      You present a programme to fight for a “fairer” capitalism as a necessary stage before a transition to socialism can even be considered possible. This is in competition with other programmes, like the one I am putting forward, which are algebraic in terms of what practical developments in terms of the degree of reforms may be possible under capitalism before a push for power can become possible but are openly premised on having that seizure of power as the goal to be achieved in the shortest possible time.

      I apologise if you thought my critique of your position on using parliament was not fair but reading your document I think it is perfectly accurate to say that you see “parliament as the primary arena in which your programme of progressive change will be implemented”. This is not to say that you aren’t arguing for the “various different planks of civil society” you outline in this comment. I did not deny that. I just referred to the central role you appear to give to the bourgeois parliament in introducing the changes you are for and how that is different from the revolutionary socialist understanding of the social role of bourgeois parliaments and how socialists should use it.

      I challenge your statement that things like the Meidner plan are about the “real goal”. These Keynesian plans are about making capitalism work more fairly they are NOT about introducing socialism and the rule of the working class. I understood that you still believed that the goal was socialism, albeit that you think that is for a far distant future. But maybe you are already transitioning to seeing radical Keynesian reforms as the “real goal”?

      As regards a demand to repudiate the debt. Of course that can appear ridiculous if taken in isolation within the existing context of capitalism. However it is also true that the debt should be repudiated in terms of the working class not paying for it. Fighting for such a big demand as repudiating the debt necessarily impacts on many other aspects of social policy and only makes sense linked together as part of an overall programme. It is not the same as a demand to keep a local hospital open, though even then I think links to other issues should be made.

      I am presenting a programme for working class power not giving advice to the capitalists on how to run their system. If the workers’ movement was in a position to implement the programmatic framework I have outlined, including issues like repudiating the debt, then a whole lot of things would be different. Yes we would have to deal with the consequences but it would be the working class that would be making the decisions about how to deal with whatever those consequences were.

      Your programme points the workers’ movement down a path of reform in both the short and medium term and implicitly, perhaps even explicitly, implies that a seamless transition from capitalism to socialism is possible by a process of increasing radicalisation of these reforms. It thus completely disarms the working class from responding to what I believe (on the basis of the history of the class struggle) will be a fierce and violent defence of their mode of production by the capitalists. You yourself recognise this when you refer to the “gargantuan forces in opposition” that the capitalists will mobilise if even the reforms in your plan go too far in attacking their wealth. Your general response to the reality of that opposition by the capitalists is to tell the working class to moderate their demands with your talk of “full investigations” etc. My response to that reality is to tell the working class to prepare itself to fight.

      That is not to argue for making mindless immediate demands which are unrealistic – like the SP/SWP do all the time. For instance how would this translate to the Dublin Bus workers in their current dispute? Calling for a general strike to support them as an immediate agitational demand would indeed be stupid.

      But outlining a plan of militant class struggle, real picket lines, rank-and-file controlled strike committees, strike support groups mobilising support in the wider working class which could make it possible for the Dublin Bus workers to win is not stupid.

      If I were part of a political group that was in a position to intervene in that strike I would be for it producing material making that case for how to win including more concrete detailed proposals for implementing that perspective. But that would also include posing the possibility of a general strike if the fight developed that far and the wider workers’ movement was organised and strong enough to make it real. It would therefore have to talk about the need for networks of rank-and-file committees across significant sections of the economy including the ability for physical self-defence against the “gargantuan forces of opposition” of the capitalists and their state.

      Your approach leads in quite a different direction for any group using it as a basis to intervene in things like the Dublin Bus worker’s fight. I am exactly not sure where the line would be drawn but somewhere it would be. It may well be that there was a good degree of overlap in terms of the proposals for immediate action at the start but on issues deemed to point in the direction of “revolutionism” (such as posing the need for organised physical defence of picket lines against the Gardai, or what would be required in terms of building towards a general strike) I suspect your hypothetical group would stay silent and might even join the trade union leaders in accusing my hypothetical group of being dangerous communist provocateurs.

      In terms of concrete immediate proposals it might even be that our two hypothetical groups would agree on how to end the fight – I am not opposed to making realistic assessments over when it is necessary to retreat (see for instance my position on the CAHWT defeat over the property tax). But the more the workers were being successful then the more the difference would come to the fore and at some stage your group would almost certainly end up in the same camp as the trade union leaders calling for ending things before they went “too far”.

      I therefore hope that you re-think this political road you are going down. Look again at the history of Social Democracy – particulary the betrayal at the outbreak of WWI. What side in that split in the Social Democratic movement would you have been on if the logic of the programme you are outlining for Ireland today was applied then? Is that the side you really want to be on?

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