The working class in Ireland is suffering under the weight of being made to shoulder the vast bulk of the cost of an economic crisis that was not of our making. The existing leadership of the workers’ movement have consistently betrayed the interests of working people. The trade union leaders are wedded to the “Social Partnership” sell-out while the Labour Party is only interested in tinkering with the capitalist economy and has happily entered into a coalition government with the viciously anti-worker Fine Gael.

There is a deep crisis in political leadership and the call to set up a new party that will put the interests of working people first is to be welcomed. There needs to be a thorough discussion about the tactics, strategy and programme of the new party and this document is a contribution to that discussion.

Before beginning this discussion we must first be clear about what our tasks are – how to build a party that really fights for the interests of the working class. We need to build a party that has a viable and realistic action programme for the immediate defence of our communities and livelihoods against the draconian attacks of the bosses and their government. But we also need a vision of the socialist society that can finally put an end to the ongoing chaos and horror of the international capitalist system and replace it with one based on the common ownership of society’s wealth, planning for social need and mutual solidarity between working people.

The new party therefore needs a programme that integrates our answers to the immediate struggles as part of a coherent plan for how to get to that socialist society. It is highly unfortunate that the electoral platform of the ULA, or that of any of its components, did not present this kind of action programme outlining a coherent path to the socialist transformation of society, instead presenting a left social democratic reformist version of “socialism”. That was an opportunity lost – we must not repeat it with the programme of the new party.

Instead of a process of secret back-room deals leading to the presentation of a programme as a fait accompli, the new party need to be based on the full democratic involvement of the membership. There should be free exchanges of ideas and differences with the right to form open tendencies within the party. Recognising that a vibrant culture of political discussion and debate is essential for the working class to achieve its self-emancipation the new party must be committed to facilitating the political education of both its members and the wider workers’ movement.

The following does not pretend to be a fully finished programme – its aim is to stimulate discussion and debate about the key areas a revolutionary socialist programme needs to cover.


Campaigning against the cuts

The new party needs to be an organic part of the anti-cuts movement at the grassroots level providing a leadership of ideas for that movement based on the tactics and strategy outlined in a clear programme. An anti-cuts movement that was able to push back the attacks would be an important part of building a wider explicitly socialist movement. It is therefore important that the new party champions the principles of workers’ democracy in building united front campaigns against specific attacks on the basis of principled agreement on the limited demands of each campaign and delegated workers council type organisations for more generalised responses. We should lead by example by rejecting any bureaucratic forms of organisation within the new party.

Trade unions

Ireland’s trade union leaders have no appetite for class struggle. Their aim is the continuation of the politics of “Social Partnership” and the Croke Park deal that maintain the capitalist status quo.

It is necessary for trade union activists to organise groupings within the unions based on class struggle politics in opposition to the bureaucrats – not only to overcome their resistance to militant industrial action against the current attacks, but also to lay the basis for a more generalised offensive against the irrationality of capitalism. These groupings should reject the fake unity of “broad left” formations and instead be caucuses of party members, and other militants who support our work in the unions, formed on acceptance of the key elements of our programme as the basis for action. These socialist caucuses would then work with others throughout the union movement in united front campaigns on specific cases and issues.

For a militant fight-back in the unions to succeed it must use serious methods. One key lesson that must be re-learned is that ”picket lines mean don’t cross!” The ICTU bureaucracy explicitly condones crossing picket lines: “Where a union picket is placed other unions with members in the employment affected should advise their members to report for work as normal and to carry out normal work” (“A Guide to the Picketing Policy of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions”). Such weakness only emboldens employers and undermines the effectiveness of the strike tactic.

The new party must have the political courage to resolutely proclaim the right of workers in struggle to take whatever action is necessary, including breaking from the straight-jacket of the Industrial Relations Act by taking so-called “illegal” actions such as honouring picket lines and other solidarity within and between unions wherever struggles occur.

This will mean a political fight against those in the trade union leadership, including many “lefts”, who want to acquiesce to the capitalist legal framework in the futile hope for some leniency by the bosses and their government. The new party must be committed to fighting for real democracy in the union movement with the right of election and immediate recall of all officers – whose pay scales should be in accordance with the wages of those they represent. Any members of the new party standing for election to union positions should do so on the basis of the programme. However our strategy should not be focused on reforming the existing bureaucratic structures through elections to particular official posts or recruiting left-wing bureaucrats – instead the new party’s primary activity should be building its caucuses and networks among rank and file militants on the basis of class struggle politics in direct opposition to the trade union bureaucracy.

The working class is facing a generalised attack which needs a generalised response. This poses the question of building towards a general strike to force a retreat of the attacks. A successful general strike would require the election of strike committees and picket line defence squads in every workplace across Ireland, whether or not it is unionised. Such committees would need co-ordination to be effective – something that could only be done through meetings of delegated representatives at the local, regional and national levels.

It would be foolish in the extreme to simply propose that the existing leadership of the trade unions call a general strike as they are completely opposed to the building of the militant class struggle organisations based on genuine workers’ democracy required for a general strike to be successful. The new party should actively promote the idea of the need to build towards a general strike but that must always go side-by-side with the promotion of a militant class struggle approach and the active building of these new bodies in any partial struggles as they occur.

Working class political independence

The strivings of working people for a way out of the crisis has been expressed in a desire for “unity of the left”. While this contains an important element of truth it is also significantly distorted by the definition of “the left” by liberal commentators that frames the discussion.

During the recent election there was discussion over the idea of a “left bloc” including the LP, Sinn Féin, the ULA and independents. Sinn Fein has been actively calling for such a coalition for some time:

”I invite all these potential allies to come together to forge a stronger, more united progressive and democratic movement for our country – one that aims to meet the needs of all citizens.

“I include parties like Labour, the Greens if they can survive the fall out from their participation in this right wing government; other smaller parties; the trade unions; the community organisations that are on the front line in the struggle for equality; Gaelgeoiri; rural agencies and organisations, including farming bodies and fishing communities; women’s groups; the students, youth organisations and those who speak for the disabled, the poor, the unemployed, the homeless and the marginalised in our society.”
(Gerry Adams, Sinn Féin Ard Fheis 2009)

In the recent election Sinn Féin tried to project itself as on the side of working people with talk of a wealth tax and spreading the pain over six, rather than four or five, years. However the record of Sinn Féin in the Northern Ireland Assembly in implementing the massive cuts has shown beyond doubt they are no friends of working people.

Sinn Féin’s sharing of power with the DUP in the North is echoed by it being no secret that it would jump at the chance to join any coalition government in the Republic. RTE interviewed Gerry Adams on 4 January this year and reported: ‘When asked about the possibility of working in a coalition with Gilmore, Mr Adams said that if Sinn Féin could do business with Ian Paisley, it could do business with anyone.’

A serious socialist organisation can only be built on the basis of firm opposition to all wings of the capitalist class and its political representatives. That is why the new party must uphold the principle of complete working class political independence from all bourgeois (and petty-bourgeois) parties – including Sinn Féin and the Greens. Given the strong tendency towards creating political blocs that exists under the proportional representation parliamentary system this is a very important question on which the new party must be absolutely clear.

Women

Another vital question is that of women’s rights. The pressure on jobs is likely to translate into reactionary attempts to push women out of the workforce with a claim that their proper place is in the home looking after the family. Women’s oppression in capitalist society is chiefly rooted in their role in the family. Responsibilities as mothers and home-makers contribute greatly to women’s relative poverty and reduced access to educational and work opportunities. Increasing pressure on the family through the reduction in community and social services contribute to domestic violence and sexual abuse. Women need financial independence in order to be able to make real choices in their lives.

The new party must fight for full employment at decent wages, equal pay for equal work, decent maternity and paternity leave, free quality childcare day and night, free healthcare (including contraception and abortion on demand), and decent affordable housing for all.

The new party must oppose restrictions on sexual expression and sexual choices among all those capable of informed consent and therefore should fight for; an end to all discrimination against lesbians, gays and other sexual minorities; no age of consent laws; and no state censorship, including of sexual material.

Anti-racism

Traditionally bosses across the world have used race, nation and religion, as well as gender, to divide their victims. The answer of the new party must be to uphold the equality of Irish-born and immigrant workers, including asylum seekers, on the basis of full citizenship rights for all, including jobs, education access, social welfare benefits and all state services in the language of their choice. The new party should fight for the closure of direct provision centres and an immediate end to all deportations including where possible organising physical defence against deportation raids.

The new party must stand against the discrimination and racism inflicted on Traveller communities – supporting provision of full services to halting sites; free access to education in the language of their choice, including adult education; no restrictions on access to social services as part of entitlement to full civil rights like any other citizen.

Internationalism

As well as the intensified attacks on wages and living conditions, working people are threatened by the effects of climate change and other forms of ecological catastrophe which can only be successfully addressed in the context of a rationally planned global economy. Inter-imperialist rivalries, the struggle for resources and the rise of protectionist trading blocs point in the direction of another world war, which in the age of nuclear weapons would threaten the very existence of humanity.

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!

Economics

The Irish “Celtic Tiger” – long held up as a shining example of capitalist development – primarily benefited the super-rich and contributing to the vast inequalities of wealth we see today with the top 1% of the population having over one third of the total wealth in Ireland. Despite the supposed “sharing of the pain” the latest “rich list” shows our rulers are actually getting richer while working people suffer the ravages of austerity.

Historically a supplier of agricultural products and cheap labour for Britain, Ireland has become a base for multinational manufacturing and a tax haven for foreign, primarily US, corporations with them being responsible for around three quarters of industrial output and nearly 90% of all exports. To keep the multinationals here the government, and all the major opposition parties, is committed to keeping business taxes very low.

These multinationals are in the forefront of demands to drive down the living standards of working people to maintain their obscene levels of profits:

”It is no secret that our costs spiralled out of control in the past number of years and we are now more expensive than many of our European counterparts. If there is any silver lining on the current difficulties in which we find ourselves, it is that we now have the opportunity to realign our costs to become more competitive.”
(American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland)

The ‘re-capitalisation’ of the Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Bank has led to what the government is calling an ”outflow of funds”, as the rich transferred these public subsidies to tax havens around the world. That is the reality of the so-called “black hole” in the banking system – working people’s taxes going directly into the pockets of the rich. The new party should call for the opening of the books, both of big business and government, so that the reality of the theft of society’s wealth by this tiny minority can be seen by all.

The new party’s answer to the scourge of unemployment should be a reduction of the working week with no loss of pay coupled with a massive public works scheme to extend the social services needed by working people.

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.

Parliamentarianism and the state

For socialists, standing for parliament represents an opportunity to put forward the key elements of the socialist programme (such as forming workers’ defence squads, expropriating the bosses and initiating rational economic planning) to a much broader audience than is normally available. The value of participating in capitalist electoral contests can be measured by the extent to which they provide a chance to popularise the programme of revolutionary socialism – the only real alternative to the anarchy of the capitalist market.

Any candidates of the new party to the Dáil or local councils must openly stand as revolutionary socialists on the programme of the party. Any TDs or councillors who are members of the new party will carry out the democratically decided policies of the party like any other member and will have no special privileges merely as a result of being an elected representative. Their role is to be advocates for the workers’ movement inside the enemy camp.

Conclusion – for workers power

The openly declared purpose of the new party must be to overthrow the irrational capitalist system and replace it with socialism, a system based not on profit maximisation but on human need. We also fight for immediate demands, such as a shorter working week with no loss of pay; equal pay for equal work; a decent minimum wage; higher benefits and pensions; equal benefits for youth; free, quality education, healthcare, housing and childcare for everyone. Our task is to build a bridge between these immediate objectives and the socialist society we want to achieve. Therefore we link such ‘minimum’ demands to militant class struggle and wider demands (massive programme of public works, nationalisation without compensation of multinationals and big business, abolition of commercial and government secrecy, etc) which point the way to the need for socialism.

Of course as soon as the fight for our demands begin to pose a serious threat to the wealth and power of the capitalists, they will use every means at their disposal to stop us – the courts, the Gardaí, the army, all the forces of the capitalist state apparatus. The capitalist state exists to defend the privilege and wealth of our capitalist rulers – just ask the Shell to Sea activists, or the student demonstrators in Dublin last November, or the Thomas Cook workers whose workplace occupation was broken in 2009.

It is necessary to break up the existing state apparatus and replace it with a new state power, based on the fundamentally different forms of workers’ democracy, which is committed to serving and protecting the interests of working people and the oppressed. The new party should openly advocate this and reject any reformist fantasies about “community control” of the existing capitalist state apparatus.

To defend ourselves we need to form mass-based organs of self-defence which can resist the repression of the capitalist state as we fight back against the attacks and lay the basis for its overthrow. We need to take over workplaces and join together to take the economy into common ownership. This will necessarily carry over into a fight for working class rule, based on democratic organisations at all levels from workplace councils to a workers’ government.

The capitalists, their politicians and media hacks, along with their cronies in the workers’ movement, will say that this is all utopian and unrealistic. Our new party must say it is not a question of what is possible under capitalism – we are not social democratic reformists – but what is possible were society ruled by working people. Markets and profit-based production are not eternal social phenomena. They have not always existed and, as is now so clearly evident, they have outlived their usefulness.


10 Responses to “For a revolutionary socialist programme”


  1. 1 hatz
    April 24, 2011 at 22:05

    Well done, its a start,

    Ease up on the ideology, in fact scrap the ideology, people don’t like like being told that stuff, like that capitalism is bad, it makes them feel bad, you want to make people feel good right?

    Picture on the top right hand side, I see the word communism on it, again, it has links with failure and people don’t like to be associated with failure. People want to associate with winners. Why not an Irish themed picture, no beards either, and is that the mane Trotsky I see as well, get rid of that?

    There is way too much content in this article. By the time I read the whole thing I had already forgotten half of it.

    Use less emotive language.

    Change the “Our new party must” to “We Will”

    • April 25, 2011 at 17:38

      I know the point you are getting at and I am not opposed to using more accessible language as long as the content remains the same. However at the same time I think it is possible to go too far in that direction and there needs to be some degree of “reclaiming” our history as revolutionary socialists including the phraseology that goes with that.

      To some extent the logo I chose for my wordpress persona was consciously done. To get across that my ideas do stand in a political tradition – of the Russian Revolution and the first 4 Congresses of the 3rd International.

      I know that the article is long and covers a lot but I couldn’t get it cut down without losing what I felt was key content. Its not meant as a light read but rather something that does require a bit of study as it fits in the space, while not being complete, of a party programme type document which is necessarily fairly detailed.

      I considered splitting it up into separate sections/documents but in the end I thought that the interlinked nature of it meant that it made more sense as one document.

      Thanks for the feedback about the language used – I’ll take it on board for any future contributions to the discussion on programme that I write, or any concrete motions I might put forward when the new party is formally launched.

  2. 3 hatz
    April 27, 2011 at 23:48

    Are you looking for public support/interest/etc with this project?

    Regarding the use of language and terminology, never look back, you can use new words if you like, but reclaiming phraseology from 19th century socialist revolutions isn’t going to sell in 21 century Ireland.

    Your political tradition – ‘of the Russian Revolution and the first 4 Congresses of the 3rd International’.That’s fine, but nobody else cares about it, you can still base a lot of what you want on those principles but you don’t have to mention it, or use the imagery from Russia.
    If you want Irish people to read this, use some relevant Irish imagery.

    The article is too long and content heavy, you said its meant to be a light read, indeed, because its not going to be read at all.

    How many comments have been left here? maybe its because its too heavy to read, people lost interest and then clicked ‘close tab’ and they then went to google images to laugh at funny cat pictures.

    You said ‘I know that the article is long and covers a lot but I couldn’t get it cut down without losing what I felt was key content’. Well that’s your problem. Party programme type documents are not supposed to be detailed,

    If you want people to read this, I’d work on it again, and again, and again if needed.

    OR

    You could stick to what you want and nobody reads it.
    You know what your talking about, I can see that via the article, but the article is tackling too much too soon.

    Best of luck.

    • April 28, 2011 at 11:03

      Firstly it is important to recognise the context of this blog. I have written a document that is a contribution to the discussion around the programme of the proposed new workers’ party.

      It is clearly not a document aimed at the wider public. Of course there is no doubt that even if the new workers’ party was to adopt the general framework I have outlined then it would have to produce all kinds of material to get across the ideas, much of which would be shorter, using more popular language and more closely tailored for the wider Irish audience. But that is talking about different things at a different time in the development of a new workers’ party.

      The document’s primary audience is fellow socialists, of various types, involved in the beginning of that project. And in my experience, while they may, or may not, agree with the political content, these are not the kind of people who would be put off by either the length of the document or the language used in it. Indeed I know from direct feedback that it has already been read by a good number of people involved in that process in Cork where I am based and have distributed hard copies.

      To the extent you are right that the political tradition I am attempting to represent is not cared about then it is my responsibility to try to change that as I sincrely believe that unless something within the general framework of that tradition is adopted by the workers’ movement then we will not be able to change society for the better.

      So my question to you is – are you involved in the project for a new workers’ party and if so what do you think of the political content of the ideas presented in my document?

  3. May 2, 2011 at 15:09

    The Left needs to address the problem of how to democratise the capital investment process with ownership of each specific productive enterprise vesten in some sort of co-operative groupings of workers, suppliers and users of the products.

    It also needs to address the problem of land ownership. Land should NOT be on the market; it should be leased to a productive user, at a rate dependent on the cost to the state of servicing the infrastructure.

    I would welcome the opportunity to participate in some sort of think-tank developing the implications of the foregoing, and relating it to classic objectives of the co-operative movement.

    • May 2, 2011 at 15:30

      Have you joined the ULA?

      It would be hoped that the structures of the new organisation will include space for all kinds of discussion and debate about programmatic issues including those you outline.


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