11 Responses to “Statement to Left Forum meeting – For a working class orientation”

  1. November 3, 2013 at 14:58

    Alan, the broad membership of Sinn Fein are working class and unemployed and have no hidden agenda to undermine their own interests. You fall into the oul establishment agenda trap of pointing to SF participation in the northern assembly as proof that it is anti working class. Well if you dont understand why the party is involved in power sharing and what its bigger plans are all about -then theres no point in me wasting my time trying to educate you. Secondly your own uninformed view that SF will enter coalition with FF is about as meaningless as me declaring that I know Alan Gibson is about to join Fine Gael. You really need to inform yourself a bit better Alan, as there is nothing more futile than to believe your own propaganda. I’m a member of SF Alan, I’m also an unemployed member of the working classes. through my voluntary political activity, I work with and for working class families every day of the week.

    • November 3, 2013 at 20:22

      Kieran, thanks for your feedback.

      I make this assessment of Sinn Fein based on my analysis of the policy statements by the leadership and more importantly the election manifesto at the last election, which is a very comprehensive statement of the organisation’s political perspective.

      I accept that I am speculating on the possibility of Sinn Fein entering a coalition with Fianna Fail but I think this speculation is consistent with the assessment I have made as per the above.

      I am well aware that Sinn Fein has significant working class membership/support and that these people are not consciously supporting an organisation that will, in my opinion, act against their class interests.

      But having support from people who are sociologically members of the working class does not in-of-itself make a political party pro-working class in terms of its political perspectives. That is only shown by its political programme and actions.

      It is true that I don’t understand how there could be “bigger plans” which would justify Sinn Fein’s involvement in the anti-working class Stormont government. I guess it is theoretically possible but I have not seen any analysis explaining how this contradiction can be explained.

      Can you point me toward any document(s) that explain how Sinn Fein are for advancing the interests of the working class as a class while at the same time are acting in quite a different way in the North?

  2. 3 AlanMyler
    November 4, 2013 at 11:00

    “A minority on the organising committee argued that inviting a Sinn Féin speaker to this meeting would send a message that the Left Forum considered Sinn Féin today, with its existing leadership and programme, as part of the left.

    One group on the organising committee argued that Sinn Féin should be invited because it is a valid part of the Left Forum project.”

    These are not accurate statements.

    I don’t recall anyone on the organising committee making these assertions.

    The stated rationale for inviting a Sinn Féin speaker was that elements of the SF membership consider their party to be of the Left, that SF participates in broad Left popular protests against austerity on the streets alongside other elements of the Left, that the SF leadership is currently spouting a social democratic rhetoric that places it to the Left of the Labour Party, that SF receives widespread electoral support amongst working class communities on the basis of this political positioning, and that SF is recognised by the mainstream media as one of the dominant Left voices.

    Based on the above, the argument put forward was that it was not so important whether the various members of the Left Forum organising committee considered SF to be of the Left or otherwise, but more important to allow SF the opportunity to put forward its own analysis of that question, via participation in a public debate on the topic of “Does Ireland need a new Left Party?”.

    There was never at any time an implied endorsement of whatever that SF analysis might amount to, and in fact the point that there was no implied endorsement was made clear during the internal discussions of the organising committee, discussions which you were part of.

    • November 4, 2013 at 19:58

      This statement does not claim that anyone on the Left forum organising committee “endorsed” the political analysis of Sinn Féin and it is a red herring to claim so.

      I think your comment exactly makes the argument for why you, and others, think that Sinn Féin are a valid part of the Left Forum project – because they are perceived to be “left” in the loose non-class way that term is used in the mainstream capitalist media.

      As you described it on the organising committee email list when we were discussing the issue of inviting a Sinn Féin speaker:

      “The point is that SF itself considers itself to be of “a Left”, and more importantly it is clear that, within the ideological blinkers of the mainstream political discourse in society, SF are also considered to be “Left” by large swathes of the population and by what passes for informed analysis within the dominant media.”

      I counterposed an understanding that the Left Forum should be a “vehicle for discussion and debate about how to further the interests of the working class as a class.” And on those grounds Sinn Féin would self-exclude themselves as an organisation because they do not even pretend to have that as their agenda.

      I therefore think the statement is completely accurate in how it describes the different positions taken by members of the organising committee.

      I also can happily note that when Sinn Féin was referred to at the meeting on Saturday it was much more in line with the understanding outlined by myself, Craig and Anne in this statement and by implication, at one point explicitly, with our call for an explicit working class orientation for the Left Forum.

  3. November 4, 2013 at 11:06

    Alan the legacy of partition and our colonial past – which as you are aware is not yet resolved, means that the north of our country is not a normal society by any standards. Many political movements/ groups and individuals -some revolutionary who tried to address this matter had failed for a variety of reasons. Some tried to do it while undertaking a military campaign to remove the imperialist link/cause of partition and division first. Others argued that the imperial/British link couldn’t be removed unless the working classes were united first. This too failed because the counter revolutionaries in the opposing community was controlled by the pro-division imperial security forces, and in time some genuine revolutionaries became sucked into the counter revolutionary system. while all of this was going on -there were other minority so-called revolutionaries sitting on the sidelines with their superior brand of socialism condemning all others -but offering nothing in real terms towards a solution.

    SF has a strategy to end partition and to unite the working classes and to create an Ireland of equals. The colonial and post colonial dimension to all this has to be addressed and dealt with and power-sharing was /is an essential part of this if conflict is to be made a thing of the past. Yes SF is sharing power with the DUP and other unionist and nationalist right-wing parties and yes fiscal powers are still dictated by Westminster. But the SF long-term strategy does not envisage this as being a permanent scenario. Now we have people who neither care about or desire an end to partition and who opposed a military campaign against the British State in the past -who condemn SF now for being involved in power sharing – while totally ignoring the consequences of a military conflict returning. – Connolly’s Carnival of reaction?

    Not only is partition an impediment to uniting the working classes on the whole island, but it also impedes the normalisation, harmony and prosperity of the very people we all claim to represent. If you know of some (real) way of uniting the workers on this island within the partition framework, then I would like to hear about it.

    in the meantime, I would like to know what you and people like you are doing about getting Westminster to devolve fiscal independence to Belfast so there is more room to ease the pressure on those that need it. I’d like to know also what you intend to do about spreading your views and persuading others of their value -while preaching a policy of exclusion because some people dont live up to your lofty brand of socialism. – “Lets unite the working classes by excluding the ones who differ from our world view?.

    If you agree Alan that partition is wrong and should be addressed – then please try to understand that it will not change by itself and much work and sacrifice will have to be made to address it on both sides of this island – and sharing power with parties of polar opposite world views in an assembly with limited powers is part of that sacrifice – even if you dont understand fully what this strategy entails – you should at least understand that this was always going to look strange and odd by the very nature of the people who make up this island.

    If on the other hand -you couldn’t give a hoot about a united Ireland and dont care what SF’s strategy is – but want instant liberation for the working classes without working for it. then the best of luck to you. I happen to think the working classes, or at least a good portion of them are ahead of you on this.

    • November 4, 2013 at 20:59


      I certainly can see how Sinn Féin has a strategy to end partition but I don’t see how that strategy is particularly concerned with furthering the interests of the working class as a class.

      There seems to be a clear implication in your postion argued here that this is a two stage process. Partition is an impediment to working class unity so first we get rid of partition (even if that means having to do things like participating in an anti-working class government in the North) and then after that impediment is removed we can get on with thinking about working class unity.

      For my own part I do not see participation in an anti-working class government to be a “sacrifice”, in my mind it is more equivalent to a betrayal if indeed it is somehow claimed to be carried out in the name of the working class and I don’t actually see any evidence that the Sinn Féin leadership see it in these terms.

      This is not to say that the divisions in the working class are not real but the impediments to advancing the interests of the working class as a class are more than just the issue of partition.

      For instance any political project that puts the interests of the working class at its heart must deal with more than just the issue of the political/military influence of British imperialism in the North but also of the almost complete economic domination of the economy in the South by multinationals – primarily British and American.

      Because of this imperialist domination over the whole island it seems fairly clear to me that the working class unity that is required is one that needs to stretch beyond the island to the working classes of Britain and Europe.

      As I argued in my initial statement that launched this blog:

      “Workers’ struggle in Ireland therefore cannot be separated from that of working people in Britain, across Europe and indeed worldwide. European-wide trade union networks should be built as part of a conscious co-ordination of the workers’ movement across national boundaries. Our new party should seek opportunities to actively collaborate with other political parties across Europe who share our political goals.

      “This is not just out of a sense of internationalist solidarity but is also based on the realisation that any concrete threat to the capitalist order in Ireland would meet the resistance of not only the forces of the Irish state but also those of international capital in defence of the profits of the multinationals.

      “The new party must oppose any participation by Irish forces in the military adventures of Britain, or any other imperialist interventions around the world, even if done under the flag of so-called United Nations “peacekeeping”.

      “The new party should call for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of British troops from Northern Ireland. We should demand the release of Republican prisoners and the repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act. While opposing discrimination of the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland the new party should seek to promote measures that point towards the unity of workers in the Republican and Unionist communities in a common struggle against the capitalist system and its attacks. Unity between workers in the North and South of Ireland is also central to defending our interests so the new party should actively seek to establish concrete links between workers organisations across the capitalists’ border.

      “One of the central slogans of the new party should be – For an Irish Workers’ Republic within a Socialist Federation of Europe!”


      “The new party should stand for the nationalisation, without compensation, of all natural resources such as the Corrib gas fields – not as a nationalist project of building “socialism on one island”, but within an overall programme for socialist planning across Europe.

      “A socialist economy organised on the basis of conscious planning for social need rather than competition and maximisation of profit will require control over all the important levers of economic life. Therefore the new party needs to be committed to the expropriation of the banks and multinationals, and all the other big-business parasites – without compensation. Nationalisations under workers’ control can be a valuable training ground for running a planned and socialised economy but only if openly linked to the need for expropriations by a workers government after the seizure of power.”

      The point being that I don’t see the struggle against imperialist domination of Ireland (and the ending of partition as a component of that) being an Irish-only question or separated from the struggle to overthrow capitalism as a whole. The two elements are totally intertwined in my mind.

      This might seem less realistic but if that is the price of not being prepared to make the “sacrifice” of being part of pro-capitalist governments attacking the living standards of working people then so be it.

      I suspect that a part of this will be tested fairly quickly.

      It appears likely that Sinn Féin will do very well at the 2014 council elections and will probably hold the balance of power in a good number of councils around the country. What will Sinn Féin do in response to what will be a raft of council budget cuts? Will you make more “sacrifices” by supporting these anti-working class cuts (perhaps mitigating the worst excesses) or will you take a more principled position of refusing to vote for such cuts to the incomes and lives of working people – even if it meant causing a political crisis by failing to pass the council budget? How Sinn Féin responds to this political challange will tell us a great deal about what else they might also be prepared to “sacrifice” in the South as part of a pro-capitalist government coalition.

  4. November 5, 2013 at 08:14

    Alan, we can keep going around the houses here -i.e. you believe this or I believe that. When I referred to the sacrifice of entering government with the DUP – I meant it because it was a case of working with people who were ideologically the opposite and people recognised who would be working to undo everything we were trying to build. Yes there is a higher goal where that sacrifice will in time pay off. I dont see it as betraying the working classes as you do, as they will be the main beneficiaries if the strategy works. As I said -the north is no normal society and You failed to explain how things would be if SF hadn’t gone into power-sharing and how the working classes would have benefited in a continuing conflict situation.

    before you say – they could have remained in power-sharing but not support british imposed cuts and austerity – then I would say, that would have been a cop-out because the assembly would then fall and we’d be back to direct rule and a lot more Tory cuts and very likley return to conflict. Again – you appear to care little about these things or have any interest in seeing the sense in devolving fiscal independence from London to Belfast where the need for cuts would be greatly minimised. Do You Support Fiscal Independence? Would you like to see the working classes suffer less? – or is all or nothing for you.

    In fact Alan, if I didnt know better, I’d say you are happy to see the working classes suffer austerity to help reinforce your position about Sinn Fein. Also, you seem to wish so when you say SF will be strong on many local councils next May but will likely support budgets that impose cuts and austerity. I’m amazed you think like that in spite of what you know and see on the ground – or is it a case of ‘none so blind as those who dont want to see’?

    • November 5, 2013 at 16:54

      I guess it is because I am unsure about what exactly are the details of this “higher goal” you think is worth the sacrifice of participating in a government that is attacking the working class.

      If I look at SF in the South, free from the special situation of the North which you see as justification for this sacrifice up there, then I am hardly reassured that it is really the interests of working people that is behind it all. The last SF election manifesto was for a modified form of capitalism which is by its very nature not in the interests of the working class. There was nothing about it to suggest that SF were committed to furthering the interests of working people as their primary concern.

      As regards the issue of “fiscal independence” in the North I would of course support it as it is likely it would lead to some lessening of the worst of the excesses of austerity – as I support any number of other reforms within capitalism. But in doing so I would be careful not to paint it as any kind of solution to the long term problems confronting the working class or that in-of-itself it would lead to an end to austerity which has quite different roots in the very nature of the capitalist system.

      My speculation about what SF may do after the next elections is based on my understanding of what SF as an organisation with its current leadership and programme would do in such a situation. If I am right then it will of course place SF members like yourself in a difficult situation. If I am wrong then I will have made a serious error of political judgement and as a result I will have to make a serious reassessment of SF.

      As an aside I don’t wish for this. In fact what I wish is that I am completely wrong and that SF are in fact really an organisation that puts the interests of working people at the heart of their politics as that would mean our side in the class struggle was in a much better state than appears otherwise. However in politics my head rules my heart/wishes and I can’t ignore the facts as I see them that point to SF only being “left” in the context of pro-capitalist politics.

      • November 5, 2013 at 23:41

        Then I guess from your point of view, the Jury is still out Alan. As for SF members like me. I dont have any fears that I’m going to be placed in a difficult position. The leadership of my party are its policy makers like me -its ordinary members. Thats what sets us apart from the establishment parties.

      • November 14, 2013 at 14:38

        Well I think it is much more clear than a situation of the “jury being still out”.

        All the available evidence points towards SF being a pro-capitalist party (the latest being this – http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/us-firms-helping-sf-build-war-chest-to-fight-2014-elections-29741087.html).

        All you present as an alternative are empty promises.

        As regards SF being more democratic in terms of policy development that well may be true but it doesn’t change the concrete of what that democratically decided policy is – as per the last election manifesto which was very far indeed from furthering the interests of the working class as a class.

      • December 2, 2013 at 09:02

        “Kieran will continue to actively support and help all his constituents regardless of any political allegiances, in line with Sinn Fein policy. This policy decrees that, as a local elected counciller, you have a duty of care for the whole community – fighting for the rights of PAYE Workers, Self-employed, Pensioners, Special Needs, Disabled, Businesses, Farming Communities, The Unemployed and disadvantaged alike.”
        – From Kieran’s election leaflet – http://irishelectionliterature.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/flyer-from-kieran-mccarthy-sinn-fein-cobh/

        But what if these “rights” come into conflict – say in a strike by workers against the business employing them for instance?

        Would Kieran take a side with the working class or would he stand above such divisions and put the interests of the “whole community” first – which as any worker every involved in industrial action knows is just a code for siding with the bosses against the disruptive workers!

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