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.


2 Responses to “Report on AAA public meeting in Cork on 5 March 2015”

  1. March 7, 2015 at 10:29

    Reblogged this on Rebel City Writers and commented:
    Report on last Thursday night’s public meeting in Cork city hosted by the Anti-Austerity Alliance/Socialist Party. As an added point of interest relating to the last paragraph, when the Mahon Says No group instigated a countywide discussion of community groups involving groups such as Cobh Says No to Austerity, Ballyphenahe/South Parish Says No to Water Charges and many more, the Gurranabraher Says No group which was represented at this meeting opted to desist from any further involvement on the basis that they wished to remain focused on the We Wont Pay campaign. A decision which of course they are entitled to make, but reading the final paragraph in this report would certainly raise a feeling of cynicism.

  2. March 7, 2015 at 13:47

    Reblogged this on Socialist Fight and commented:
    Good political report on the need to mobilise and not just get elected. Pleased the impression I got of Paul Murphy as having that dual strategy is reinforced. Stand for election to mobile the working class and base of the TUs against capitalism and their own bureaucratic misleaders.

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