Correcting a mistake: On Divisions in Cobh Says No to Austerity

I recently proposed the following motion for the next Cobh Says No to Austerity (CSNA) meeting (being held on 18 June):

“Ciara’s disruptive behaviour at the end of the meeting on 2nd June 2015 was only the most recent in a long line of disruption and personal attacks on other activists which can no longer be tolerated. Therefore Ciara is expelled from Cobh Says No to Auserity.”

The motion refers to a young woman activist who became involved in CSNA last year when the meter installers arrived in the town. She played an important role in organising the “spotters” we used to identify and follow meter installation teams as they came on to the island. However she was also centrally involved as an active protagonist in three big personal disputes that have led to activists leaving CSNA – often directly citing Ciara’s behaviour as the reason.

Following an Anti-Austerity Alliance (AAA) public meeting a couple of months ago in Cork Ciara, along with two other key CSNA activists, joined the AAA. Unfortunately the most recent personal dispute got overlaid with unsubstantiated accusations about these new AAA members being underhanded in some way. I became increasingly worried that Ciara’s disruptive behaviour was being used as a stick to politically attack the AAA’s participation in CSNA with the last few weeks seeing various proposals about closing down CSNA and creating a new group that would somehow exclude Ciara and other AAA members, and would likely be close to the national Right2Water (R2W) organisation.

In an attempt to protect CSNA as a group that had successfully united all those in Cobh opposed to the water charges irrespective of their political affiliation, my motivation for proposing Ciara’s expulsion from CSNA was to try to isolate the issue of her as a disruptive individual, long pre-dating her AAA membership,

However I now believe that I was mistaken in thinking that I could separate internal issues of CSNA from the wider political context. The national anti-water charges movement is currently in the midst of a damaging split between two electoralist projects, with the reformist socialist groups like the AAA who advocate non-payment accused of splitting and disrupting the wider movement, which R2W claims to represent. In that context my motion would inevitably, despite my best efforts, be seen as a politically motivated witch-hunt. Ciara has also indicated on the CSNA Facebook page that she is pulling out of the group in any case.

I am therefore withdrawing my support for the motion to expel Ciara.

The focus on the upcoming election by both R2W and the AAA is a backwards step for a movement that for a period mobilised broad layers of the working class who are not usually political active in concrete measures to prevent Irish Water from installing meters in their neighbourhoods. CSNA was one of the best examples of this independent working class activism and it is distressing for me and many others to see it being torn apart by personal animosities and the illusion that the water charges and austerity in general can be defeated by electing a handful of TDs on a reformist programme. Non-payment of water bills is still a key campaign but without a mobilised working class, it is in danger of being subsumed into the AAA electoral machine. R2W meanwhile continues to refuse to call for non-payment relying solely on the election of a “progressive government” that will remove the charges.

Despite my significant political differences with both of the main political blocs around which the split is coalescing I remain committed to working with all those involved in the fight against water charges where we agree on the concrete immediate demands of the struggle – be that the AAA, Workers Party, Sinn Féin, R2W or those with no party affiliation – and hope that joint activity remains possible in the future.

The ease with which electoral divisions are damaging the possibilities for effective joint action only underlines the need for the Irish working class to have a revolutionary Marxist party committed to prioritising the self-organisation of our class to best fight for our interests against the capitalists and their state machine. This kind of working class self-organisation, as seen in embryo in anti-water charges groups like CSNA, also points towards the workers’ council type of organisations that will be the basis for taking political power into our own hands and running a society where resources are channelled to those who need them, no longer subject to the whim of the capitalist market that will have been consigned to the dustbin of history.

Such a revolutionary party may use the heightened political interest around the capitalist election process by giving critical support to other candidates claiming to stand for the independent interests of the working class or even by standing its own candidates. When doing so it will always expose the democratic limitations of capitalist institutions like parliament as vehicles for fundamental social change. Instead it will use the platform provided by the elections, or in the Dáil if elected, to champion, in both word and deeds, the political independence of the working class based on our own alternative working class organisational forms.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: