Author Archive for Alan Gibson

20
Jul
17

Quiz Night for Cork Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment

CorkCoalitionQuizNightJuly2017

 

15
Jul
17

What post-repeal legislative framework should the movement to repeal the Eighth Amendment be arguing for?

At the recent special strategy conference of the national Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment there was discussion on whether the Coalition should take a position on what legislation should come into force following the successful removal of the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution.

No votes were taken at the conference so it is impossible to judge which position had majority support among the affiliated groups represented but I felt there were five distinct views being outlined by various speakers in the discussion.

Firstly there were those who argued that the Coalition, as a Coalition, should take no position on post-repeal legislation.

This was in accordance with the following section of the Rebels4Choice pre-conference contribution to the strategy discussion:

As a Coalition keep the focus on Repealing the Eighth Amendment. Don’t get drawn onto the ground of tying a referendum to repeal the 8th to what legislation should replace the current restrictive law after the Constitution is changed. Individual groups within the Coalition can choose to take positions on what legal framework, if any, should come into force after the 8th Amendment is repealed but that should be done separately from the Coalition.

As one of the Rebels4Choice representatives at the conference I argued for this in both a workshop session and the main strategy discussion.

Of those who were in favour of the Coalition taking a position on what legislation should replace the existing repressive laws following a successful repeal there were four positions put forward.

The most radical of these was for the Coalition to argue for free, safe and legal with no legal restrictions, just normal health care regulation of the provision of abortion services.

The recommendations of the Citizen’s Assembly were the pivot point for the other three positions. In order of decreasing radicalness these were:

The Coalition to argue for the recommendations of the Citizen’s Assembly to be presented as the bare minimum for any future legislation.

The Coalition to argue for the implementation of the recommendations of the Citizen’s Assembly.

Lastly there was the proposal for a plebiscite, or public consultative vote, to be held at the same time as the Repeal referendum on the four options for extending availability of abortions put forward in the Citizen’s Assembly recommendations:

  • Fatal Foetal Abnormality
  • Health
  • Socio-economic
  • Without restriction up to 12 weeks

With the Coalition calling for all four options to be passed.

As compared to the other two positions using the Citizen’s Assembly recommendations as their reference point this is in effect arguing for those recommendations to be the maximum possible basis for new legislation. This is quite strange given that the groups supporting this are trying to project themselves as the most militant pro-choice section of the movement to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

The idea of proposing a plebiscite is an interesting tactic which I think is definitely worthy of further consideration but if it is directly linked to having the Citizen’s Assembly as the maximum possible outcome then it should be rejected.

Rebels4Choice argues for the decriminalisation of abortion services with those services being treated as any other medical procedure decided by the individual woman in consultation with her health care professional in the context of free and widely available abortion services with appropriate health care regulations to guarantee the highest possible quality of care. If it was considered necessary for the Coalition to take a position as a Coalition I would argue for this to be the position taken.

Alan Gibson
(in a personal capacity)

14
Jul
17

Follow-up on my non-membership of Solidarity

Last night in Cork I attended a Solidarity “open meeting” that they had advertised on their flyer at the 4 July public meeting where I became a member (if only for 6 days).

I didn’t want to disrupt the event by making it all about me so I only distributed my Open Letter at the end of the meeting. I did however get to ask a question of Mick Barry, which was in the context of his presentation, about why they don’t rule out a coalition with Sinn Féin in advance like they do with Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party.

In Mick’s summary he responded by saying it was a tactical question to do with connecting with the working class base of Sinn Féin who have illusions that Sinn Féin are representing their class interests in some way. One of his examples being that many will vote SF #1, Solidarity #2 (and vice versa). The cynic in me thinks this electoral consideration is the major component in Solidarity’s refusal to rule out a coalition government with SF.

After the meeting I had a discussion with a couple of the Socialist Party members in Solidarity. Once again the difference was presented as tactical as they are 100% certain Solidarity would never be in a government coalition with Sinn Féin because SF would never agree to an anti-capitalist programme for government which is a red-line issue for the SP. They are just being cleverer about how they engage with SF members.

The supposed real difference, and reason they rejected my membership application, was my 18-month old reference to them (AAA before the last election) being willing to be a junior partner in a coalition government with Sinn Féin – which they take as an affront to their credentials as principled socialists.

It is true that I have speculated, and continue to speculate, that in a situation where there actually was the concrete possibility of forming what would be described by everyone as a “left government” including SF that Solidiarty/Socialist Party would not be able to stand up to what would be the massive pressure from their working class base to join that coalition government instead of “being responsible” for letting in a right-wing government.

Now maybe I am wrong about that, and who knows for certain as it is necessarily only specualtion, but I think it relates to the heart of the problem.

They are building a party/movement which doesn’t say “No government coalitions with any capitalist parties” but rather something like “No government coalitions with some capitalist parties but discussions with other ‘non-establishment’ capitalist parties over the programme for a coalition government”.

By changing the issue from one of principled opposition to crossing the class line to one of tactical discussions over programme they have created a movement/party which has blurred the importance of the class line and therefore will have contributed to the pressure they would be under if a “left government” coalition with SF, or any other “non-establishment” capitalist party, was concretely on the agenda.

This is particularly aggregious coming from an organisation which claims to stand in the political tradition of Leon Trotsky.

Trotsky described it this way:

“The left centrists seek to present this question as a tactical or even as a technical maneuver, so as to be able to peddle their wares in the shadow of the People’s Front. In reality, the People’s Front is the main question of proletarian class strategy for this epoch.”

As the SYRIZA debacle in Greece has shown this is just as relevant today as it was when Trotsky wrote those words in the 1930s.

12
Jul
17

Open letter to members and supporters of Cork branch of Solidarity

On Tuesday 4 July I attended a Solidarity public meeting in Cork. At the end of the meeting I filled out a membership form, #1131, which was accepted at the desk, as was my €10 membership fee.

SolidarityMember1131cropped

Subsequently I received an email timestamped 10 July 2017 at 17:45:

Hi Alan,

I understand that at our public meeting on Tuesday night, you filled in a Solidarity membership card and paid a membership fee of €10. These were accepted by a Solidarity member who was not aware that you were previously not accepted into membership.

As you know, in December 2016 your application for membership of the then Anti Austerity Alliance was rejected by a unanimous decision of our local committee. This decision was based, in part, on the fact that you had fundamental and well established disagreements with the AAA’s politics and approach. For example, at the time of the last election you explicity called for people not to vote for the AAA, stating that we would: “capitulate and participate in a “progressive” Sinn Féin-led government – haggling only over minor details in the programme for government and ministerial positions.” This is entirely consistent with your approach to the AAA/Solidarity as expressed in a number of speeches and articles since we launched in 2013. It’s hard to see how this can be squared with a genuine commitment to help build our project now.

The Anti Austerity Alliance has changed its name to Solidarity. We feel the name better reflects our political orientation, but it does not represent a new organisation or fundamental political shift on our part. Similarly, I see no evidence that anything has fundamentally changed about your own approach.

Given that nothing is altered since December, it should have been clear to you that the decision we made then still stands and you are not accepted into Solidarity membership.

We will refund your fee as last time.

Regards,
Conor Payne
On behalf of Cork Branch of Solidarity

I replied (10 July 2017 at 18:56) as follows:

Conor,

I am glad to see you are no longer repeating the untrue slanders about my supposed role in an anti-AAA witch-hunt in the Cobh anti-water charges/meters campaign.

As regards the issue of political difference which you say should exclude me it appears I was confused about what I had understood was now the position of Solidarity.

You accurately quote from my analysis of the last general election and what I put forward as the reason why I was unable to call for a vote to the AAA.

As the AAA explicitly and openly refused to rule out a governmental alliance with Sinn Féin there should be nothing contentious about my statement. Given the relative social weight of the organisations involved at the time of the election any possible coalition government involving Sinn Féin and AAA/PBP would necessarily have been in the context of the majority/minority I outlined.

However I had assumed that based on the type of movement/organisation Solidarity says it is trying to build, as outlined by Paul Murphy in his interview on 3 July, that this position must have been updated.

Unless of course you believe that there was a possibility that the openly pro-capitalist Sinn Féin organisation would somehow be willing to be part of a government coalition that was in line with the sentiments outlined by Paul:

“That everybody who stands for a society based on the interests of the majority as opposed to the 1% at the top should come together. Everybody who stands for a woman’s right to choose. Everybody who stands for those kind of policies based on people power movements from below. Those who believe in turning society effectively upside down, saying the wealth and resources should be in the hands of the majority instead of the minority.”

Despite whatever may be our differences about how to get to the goal of this kind of society I think it is quite clear that I fall within the boundaries of “everybody” who agrees with those goals.

On the other hand the truth is that Sinn Féin, as an organisation, quite clearly does NOT fall within those boundaries.

I therefore presumed that this would exclude any possibility of Solidarity participating in a governmental coalition with Sinn Féin and thus the previous red line issue that had stopped me from calling for a vote to the AAA no longer existed.

As you seem to be standing by the position I critiqued at the beginning of 2016 it appears I must have been wrong in this presumption.

Therefore you either think Sinn Féin, as an organisation, does believe that “the wealth and resources should be in the hands of the majority instead of the minority” or these are just meaningless words with no relationship to what kind of governmental coalition you would be prepared to join.

If either of these is the case then yes indeed I am not interested in being a member of Solidarity as this is a class-line I as a revolutionary Marxist am not prepared to cross.

Can you also confirm that this most recent decision was also the result of a vote by the Cork local committee?

Comradely regards
Alan

So I have a few questions for members and supporters of Solidarity.

  • Do you think the argument for not voting for the AAA that I outlined in my blog post in February 2016 (for the full post see https://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/2016/02/08/pandering-to-illusions-in-sinn-fein-election-2016-and-working-class-independence/) is incompatible with membership of Solidarity?
  • Do you believe that the openly pro-capitalist Sinn Féin organisation could be part of a left government that had as its aim “turning society effectively upside down, saying the wealth and resources should be in the hands of the majority instead of the minority.”
  • And if you do not believe that is possible why doesn’t Solidarity tell the working class this truth by ruling out, in advance, a government coalition with Sinn Féin – just as it does for Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party?
06
Jul
17

Member 1131 of Solidarity – The Left Alternative

Solidarity_Member_1131

 

At the end of 2016 in the wake of what seemed like something of a move to the left at their national conference I joined the Anti-Austerity Alliance via an online form. This was quickly overturned by the local AAA committee, primarily on the grounds that I had supposedly participated in a political witch-hunt against an AAA member during the anti-water charges/metering campaign in Cobh. See the following blog posts for my response to these untrue allegations:

https://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/2016/12/09/aaa-this-marxist-not-welcome/

https://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/2016/12/13/sp-political-smears-and-working-class-democracy/

https://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/2016/12/15/more-on-what-participating-in-a-witch-hunt-looks-like-to-the-socialist-party/

https://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/2016/12/20/what-has-saddened-me-the-most-about-the-alan-participated-in-the-anti-aaa-witch-hunt-farce/

But jumping forward 6 months – during which time the Anti-Austerity Alliance has undergone a rebranding into Solidarity – The Left Alternative.

At the beginning of this week I viewed what was billed as the first full interview by Paul Murphy following the successful defeat of the Irish state’s clearly politically motivated attempt to have him and 6 others convicted of the “false imprisonment” of Tánaiste Joan Burton during the Jobstown anti water charges protest in 2014.

That interview (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gTySblCq7g) ended with Paul saying:

“We will try and use this as a launching pad to say that a substantial broad left needs to be built in this country. That everybody who stands for a society based on the interests of the majority as opposed to the 1% at the top should come together. Everybody who stands for a woman’s right to choose. Everybody who stands for those kind of policies based on people power movements from below. Those who believe in turning society effectively upside down, saying the wealth and resources should be in the hands of the majority instead of the minority.

“We need to come together and Solidarity will be launching that call, the idea that we come together on the streets, that we come together in movements and we come together in terms of elections to try to pose the most serious challenge possible to fight for, and to pose the need for, in this country a left government. And that doesn’t mean a left government of parties in coalition with Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, or whatever. It means fighting for a government that actually operates in the interests of the majority.”

The following evening, Tuesday 4 July, Solidarity held a public meeting in Cork with Paul as the headline speaker. The same sentiments outlined in Paul’s interview were expressed by the speakers, and other Solidarity members from the floor, along with calls to join Solidarity as the best way to concretise that sentiment – with membership forms available to be filled out as we left.

Though I might have different ideas to Paul about how we could achieve those goals, and what a government capable of actually achieving them would look like, I quite clearly fall within the category of “everybody who stands for” those general perspectives – and would presumably be welcomed into Solidarity.

I therefore filled out one of the membership forms at the end of the meeting and had it, along with my €10 membership fee, accepted by the Solidarity member staffing the table.

Two days later, as I write this blog post, I remain a member of Solidarity and am looking forward to working with my new comrades as we strive to build a movement that really can turn society upside down by putting the wealth and resources in the hands of the majority instead of the minority – that is a socialist movement that ends capitalism.

The first opportunity for this would have been this coming Saturday when Cork Solidarity is going to be out on the streets taking our anti-capitalist message to working people. However I am already committed to attending the national conference of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment as one of the Rebels4Choice representatives. But I am sure I will be hearing from the Cork branch soon about upcoming activities.

14
Jun
17

Rebels for Choice Press Release

241_women_from_Cork

Response by Cork pro-choice organisation Rebels for Choice to news that 241 women travelled from Cork for abortions in 2016

Spokeswoman Dr Sandra McAvoy said:

Three pieces of news this week make clear how important it is to repeal the 8th Amendment and implement the recommendations of a Citizens’ Assembly that fully understood the issues.

One is news is that, in 2016, a total of 3,265 women who gave addresses in the Republic travelled from Ireland to England and Wales to terminate their pregnancies. 241of them, 9 per cent of the total, gave Cork addresses. We need to end the hypocrisy involved in protecting women’s constitutional freedom to travel while at the same criminalising those who cannot afford to go to England and threatening them with up to 14 years in prison if they end their pregnancies on Irish soil.

Also, a UN Committee has ruled in the second case in a year taken against Ireland by a woman who received a diagnosis of a fatal foetal anomaly and was denied access to a termination. For a second time it has found that our state violated a woman’s rights to privacy, discriminated against her and subjected her to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, in contravention of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. That issue is shaping up to be the equivalent to the Magdalene Homes and other abuse scandals and we cannot pretend we have not known about it for a long time. It is time for politicians to act and initiate simple repeal of the 8th Amendment.

It is impossible to legislate for all cases. That is why all major European democracies provide for women to have a right to choose to terminate their pregnancies, up to a certain stage, without having to disclose their reasons. Monday’s news of a young girl who was sectioned when she sought an abortion not only foregrounded the inadequacy of the provisions of the 2013 Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, it also showed how that legislation may expose women to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment by excluding them from decisions about their own bodies and well-being.

Until we repeal the 8th Amendment the shameful list of injustices visited on pregnant people will continue to grow.

09
Jun
17

Initial thoughts on the British election result

As I write this blog post is seems that Theresa May is going to form a government with support of the DUP.

This will of course be a very weak government especially in the context of the upcoming Brexit negotiations. It is hard to see how May can last very long as Prime Minister given the magnitude of the electoral set-back and her reasoning for the snap election being that securing what she expected to be a massive majority in parliament would have given her a stronger mandate going into Brexit negotiations. The likes of Boris Johnson will be waiting for any mistake or sign of weakness and are ready to make a move for the leadership of the Tories.

The big winners of the election are of course the Labour Party and given what seems to have been a significant majority among younger voters the political momentum is definitely with them.

For revolutionary Marxists the result of the election is something of a double-edged sword. It does represent, or better reflect, a move to the left in British society – engaging with that development among the working class being the reason for giving the Labour Party critical support in the election.

However with the Labour Party being in opposition there is no way to test their claims of having a programme that can really meet the interests of working people. There will be some opportunity to test their commitment to militant class struggle as it is likely this will increase as the working class are emboldened by Labour’s parliamentary success and the Tories weakness. But any such militancy will tend to be seen through the prism of parliamentary democracy and strengthening Labour’s chances in the next election rather than in terms of building working class self-organisation in the form of workers council type formations based on proletarian rather than bourgeois democracy.

There is now a bit of talk on the left (at least on Facebook) about “Blairism” being “dead” in the context of this big vote for the Labour Party.

ChangeInLPvote

Actually “Blairism” is merely social democratic reformism taken to the extreme in the context of weak organisation of the working class and related low levels of class consciousness. “Corbynism” is merely a reaction by social democratic reformism to the stirrings of reaction to austerity by the British working class

“Blairism” is not dead.

It is still there as an option within the political DNA of social democracy.

It is just that a more left wing (though still not particularly left wing in a historical context) veneer is now being provided to allow the Labour Party to play its traditional social role of diverting any moves towards militant class struggle into the political dead-end of parliamentarianism.




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