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Reorganise the Left and the Workers Movement at Home and Abroad

I believe that it is now necessary to draw together workers groups of many backgrounds and histories at home and abroad. This work is urgent!  Unless Stopped New Hitlers and Mussolinis Are on the Way! The Famous Statement of Marx and Engels; “Workers of the World Unite” tells us the way to go. Marx Himself organised the First International of Workers Organisations. But each country has it’s own individuall specificity and its revolutionary socialist programme of demands and actions must reflect those specificities within a principled international socialist framework. The first, second , third, and fourth internationals are now effectively gone.  But there are remnants of the second, third and fourth internationals in many countries including Ireland . I believe that it is now necessary to draw together workers groups of many backgrounds and histories at home and abroad. There are many political groups with origins in the 2nd, 3rd and fourth internationals in many countries, several with the same origin in some countries including Ireland. Other important groups have little relation with previous internationals.


If we don’t generate a mass movement on Housing and Health on the Street, General Election disaster Beckons for Sinn Féin and the Left  https://wp.me/pKzXa-17F

Confidence in SF and the Left to ACHIEVE ANYTHING FOR LOW AND Middle income Citizens has waned since the Campaign Against Water Charges

The Analysis Below Could Happen!!!!

Ireland Says No on facebook. Administrator Paula Boland

‘IF SINN FÉIN is worried about dropping six or more of its 23 Dáil seats at the general election, the Trotskyist Solidarity/People Before Profit (PBP) should be worried about a possible wipe-out of their combined six seats total. The Shinners lost half their councillors in the local elections (158 down to 77) but Sol-PBP went down from 28 seats to 11. A repeat of this performance at the general election will mean curtains for most, if not all, of its TDs.

Surprisingly, PBP’s most high-profile and enduring figure, Richard Boyd Barrett, a Dún Laoghaire TD since 2011, is very vulnerable. A combination of the post-recession swing to the political centre and the rise of the Greens definitely threatens the seat of the TD in Kingstown. Boyd Barrett’s political progress relied in the first place on environmental issues in the constituency and he will have surely noticed that in the three local areas in Dún Laoghaire, the Greens topped the poll in each of them.

Green candidate Cllr Ossian Smyth is a strong bet for a seat and, with Fine Gael likely to hold its two seats (if they sort out the Maria Bailey mess) and Fianna Fáil on course to take a seat with either Cormac Devlin or Mary Hanafin, BB is directly in the firing line.

In Dublin South-West, another high-profile TD, Paul Murphy, has split from Solidarity, a split that is likely to be mirrored in the general election, where his old party will definitely stand against him meaning neither will retain the seat. Murphy’s local work rate had fallen off badly since the so-called Jobstown kidnap trial and SF will likely hold its seat here, while FF’s Charlie O’Connor will take Murphy’s seat.

Dublin South-Central TD Bríd Smith has also built a national profile, but she will be in a tussle with another, independent Trotskyist – Joan Collins TD – to retain this Left seat and the view is that Collins’s local profile is stronger. FF senator Catherine Ardagh is on course for a seat and, while FG’s Catherine Byrne is weak, the party will move mountains to avoid a Dublin seat loss. The campaign of Green councillor Patrick Costello, who topped the poll with a massive 3,283 first preferences in Kimmage-Rathmines, will damage both Smith and Collins. One of the two socialists is likely to lose their seat.

Solidarity’s Ruth Coppinger managed to stave off the strong push from SF’s Paul Donnelly in Dublin West last time out and so did ex-Labour leader Joan Burton. Neither woman is as strong this time out and the entry of Green candidate Roderic O’Gorman – he topped the poll with another monster vote of 3,731 in Castleknock – will do less damage to Donnelly (as well as possibly taking a seat) than his two rivals. Coppinger could be in trouble here.

PBP’s Gino Kenny in Dublin Mid-West is regarded as the weakest of the six, but he may be blessed in that FG, FF or SF don’t look likely to take a second seat in the four-seater. The pending by-election here may indicate if ex Green TD, now Independent, Paul Gogarty, another local poll topper; Green councillor Peter Kavanagh; or even Labour’s ex-TD, Cllr Joanna Tuffy, can challenge Kenny.

Four-seat Cork North-Central has a strong working-class electorate, which saw SF’s Jonathan O’Brien and Solidarity’s Mick Barry take seats in 2016. A strong push by FF – if such can be mounted without MEP Billy Kelleher – would see one of these lose their seat. This is more likely to be Barry than O’Brien.

The only other Trot in the Dáil is Tipperary’s Séamus Healy of the Workers and Unemployed Action group, whose roots in the constituency are deeper and longer than Sol-PBP and is, therefore, more likely to survive the post-recession becalming. But there is a centre-right wind blowing and, while it will do some damage to SF, the Sol-PBP will drop at least three seats and could lose them all.


Addendum  Paddy Healy

The weak republican position of PBP, and in particular, the anti-republican position of SP/Solidarity will deter transfers from eliminated Sinn Féin candidates  in late counts

————————————————————–Very Bad Day For Sinn Féin and the Left-Let a Constructive Discussion Begin!


Sinn Féin lost almost half its seats  (78)

Solidarity/ PBPA lost more than half its seats(17)

Labour regained only 6 of the 81 seats it lost in 2014

Social Democrats , contesting the election as a body for the first time, won 19 seats

WUAG retained its single seat in Co Tipperary on first count  but also increased its vote by 600 votes

Local ELections   2019       Seats

FF                279         +12

FG               255         +20

Lab               57           +6

SF                  81         -78

Sol/PBPA     11          -17

GN                 49        +37

SD                  19        +19  (New)

Ind/Oth         198       +1





——————————————————————————————————————————Socialist throughout Europe and further afield are now reading these documents on this blog 

Political Discussion in Socialist Party and in its International Body (Campaign for a Workers International), Autumn-Winter 2018  https://wp.me/pKzXa-17F

I carry below in full two documents of Irish origin from this discussion

The first is by Paul Murphy TD and member of the National Executive of the Socialist Party(Ireland)

The document is titled: The United Front method and putting forward a Socialist Programme today Paul Murphy, 20 November 2018

The second is a document by 4 members of the leadership of the Socialist Party(Ireland)

It is titled: A brief contribution on some political issues mentioned by Paul Murphy TD

Document From  Laura Fitzgerald , Stephen Boyd, Kevin McLoughlin, Joe Higgins – 10 October 2018

(All except Joe Higgins are employees of the Socialist Party. Stephen Boyd and Laura Fitzgerald are Belfast based, Kevin McLoughlin is Dublin based. Joe Higgins is a former TD and Dublin MEP for the Socialist Party)

The United Front method and putting forward a Socialist Programme today Paul Murphy, 20 November 2018


  1. In my ‘Response to Confidential Report’ I identified four areas where differences have arisen over the past couple of years:
  • Developing a democratic internal culture and method inside the revolutionary party
  • T he relevance of  united  front methods for  today and how to relate to those who look towards Sinn Fein in the South (why only the South?)
  • • How we put forward a socialist programme Methods of building and cadre development in the revolutionary party
  1. This document deals with items 2 and 3 and responds to comrades KMcL, LF, SB & JH who added to this discussion with ‘A Brief Contribution on Some Political Issues Mentioned by PM’ (hereafter ‘Brief Contribution’). I aim to respond to the points raised by the comrades on items 1 and 4 elsewhere.
  2. In addition to the discussions planned for upcoming NC meetings, I think the precision of a written exchange will be helpful in clarifying points of disagreement. While there is much in the ‘Brief Contribution’ which I agree with, I will focus here on points of difference. I do so with the aim of contributing to a collective discussion inside the Party, being open to correction and criticism myself and with a view that the guiding line for us all in this debate should be what Lenin, approvingly quoting  Trotsky,  argued,  that  “ideological struggle within the Party does not mean mutual ostracism but mutual influence.”
  3. T his document focuses on the relevance and application of the united front method and how to put forward a socialist programme today. Fundamentally, this debate is about how we can take advantage of the growing opportunities in order to build a revolutionary party with 500 members, a base in the trade unions, communities and amongst young people, a leading role  in  the  women’s  movement,  and  a  parliamentary fraction in the next years. Such a party would be well positioned to leap further forward given the inevitability of a new capitalist economic crisis and the inevitable exposure of Sinn Fein to wide layers of working class people.
  4. A correct understanding of the united front method, and how to  apply  it  in  seeking  to  break  workers  and  young people from reformist and other non-revolutionary ideas and organisations, will be vital in the years ahead. Similarly, honing our programmatic method of connecting the day-to-day concerns and fears of working class people with the need for revolutionary socialist change will be necessary to build a mass force for socialism.

The united front method – history, definition and relevance

  1. Disagreements over the definition, history and applicability of the united front method is the biggest area of political difference that has emerged so far in this discussion. These differences were initially indicated at an NEC discussion on the united front in late August. The ‘Brief Contribution’ illustrates more clearly the differences between us.
  2. T hese are not purely theoretical or historical differences. They are reflected in differences in understanding of our work today, in particular in how we seek to relate to those who look towards Sinn Fein. A thorough debate on these historical and theoretical issues will sharpen our understanding on how to apply this method today. 51
  3. History of the united front The comrades begin with an inaccurate historical description of the  united  front  as  “tactics  the  Comintern  and revolutionary parties adopted in general towards the mass organisations of the working class in the 1920s and 1930s”. I will deal below with the question of whether the united front is solely  a  tactic  or  a method,  or  both.  Nonetheless,  the  history  is clear. The united front did not originate in the 1920s as seems to be implied by the ‘Brief  Contribution’. It was in  fact central to the success of the Bolsheviks in 1917, and was fought for by  Lenin  in  particular.  The  most  well  known  example  is  the united front struggle proposed by the Bolsheviks to stop the Kornilov coup against the Kerensky government in August 1917, using “Kerensky as a gun-rest to shoot Kornilov.”
  4. It wasn’t until later, in particular at the Third and Fourth Congresses of the Communist International in the early 1920s, that the united front was theorised. The same process took place with the transitional method and the workers’ government slogan,  both  of  which  were  implemented  by  the Bolsheviks in 1917, for example in Lenin’s ‘The Impending Catastrophe and How to Fight It’, and the ‘Down with the Ten Capitalist Ministers’ slogan demanding that the Mensheviks and SRs form a government without the participation of the capitalist parties.
  5. T he comrades are unfortunately wrong to suggest that the united  front  was  then  adopted  by  the  Communist Parties.  In fact, the  tragedy of the 1920s  and 30s is precisely that it was not fully adopted or properly implemented.
  6. It was applied in a hesitant way at best in the early 1920s, with the ‘Open Letter’ in Germany from the Communist Party (KPD) to the reformist SPD, the centrist USPD, the ultra-left KAPD and  four  trade  union  federations  in  January  1921. This  was initially  opposed  by the  President  of  the Communist International, Zinoviev, and the leadership of the Comintern, until Lenin himself intervened. Even this correct initiative was quickly followed by an ultra-left and adventurist turn  with the ‘March action’  two months  later.  In 1923,  when the KPD had successfully won the majority of the working class, including through the method of the united front, they faltered again, tragically failing to seize the window of  revolutionary opportunity by boldly putting in place plans for an insurrection.


  1. T he united front was misapplied in an opportunistic manner in the mid to late 1920s, for example in Britain with the ‘Anglo-Russian Committee’ in which the Communist Party effectively abandoned political independence and provided left cover for  the  reformist trade  union  leaders.  The  ultra-left Stalinist ‘Third Period’ turn saw it replaced with the idea of a ‘Red United Front’ excluding reformists as ‘social fascists’, before giving way to ‘Popular Frontism’, where the political independence of working class forces was subordinated to the supposed progressive bourgeoisie, with tragic consequences in Spain and elsewhere.
  2. These mistakes and betrayals led to historic defeats and squandering of revolutionary opportunity. Trotsky and the forces of the developing Trotskyist movement were left alone defending the genuine method of the united front. Even with small forces, the  united  front method was central to  the attempt to break out of isolation and build, with Trotsky advocating the  so-called ‘French  Turn’ to seek to  win over  leftward-moving youth and workers in social democratic parties. T he failure to implement this tactic in the Spanish state saw the Stalinists instead recruit these youth. This turn was most successfully carried out in the US – in two distinct tactics – f irst of all fusing with the leftward-moving centrist American Workers’ Party and then entry into the Socialist Party, which saw a doubling of the forces of Trotskyism.
  3. While we do  not  yet  face  such  historic  opportunities, we must prepare ourselves for them today. It is all the more important therefore that we educate our comrades about the real history of the united front method and how to apply it. Defining the united front method
  4. T he ‘Brief Contribution’ gives an extremely narrow and restricted definition  of  the  united  front,  saying  it  is  “tactics” which “involved proposing a united front with [mass organisations of the working class] on key issues or struggles — march separately but striking together”.
  5. It is true that in the ‘20s and ‘30s, the specific application of the united front was a tactic of proposing joint action with the mass workers’ organisations that workers looked to at that time, in a structure which allowed for continued political independence of the different forces. The classic example is Trotsky’s writings in  the  1930s  hammering  home  the  need  for such a united front of workers’ parties against fascism.
  6. However for Trotsky, as for Lenin, this was merely the application of a more general method to a concrete situation. It is a method that is not only applicable when the working class looks to mass reformist workers parties, but can be applicable whenever revolutionary  ideas are  not in  the overwhelming majority of the working class, and instead other reformist, petit bourgeois or even bourgeois ideas and organisations hold sway. As Trotsky explained in ‘On the United Front’ (1922): “The task of the Communist Party is to lead the proletarian revolution. In order to summon the proletariat for the direct conquest of power and to achieve it the Communist Party 5223. must base itself on the overwhelming majority of the working class.  So long as  it does  not  hold  this  majority,  the party  must f ight to win it.” 18. To break the majority of workers from non-revolutionary ideas and organisations, it was not simply enough to denounce those organisations. Instead, it was necessary to seek  to  draw  these  workers into struggle  alongside  the  revolutionaries, including where necessary through appeals to and agreements with the leaders of those organisations for specific united fronts. Such a united front is in no  sense a substitute for  a  revolutionary  party.  Through  exploiting  the  contradiction between the interests of workers and the reality of the programme of the leaders who those workers looked to, it was a means to win workers to an understanding of the need for revolutionary change and to the revolutionary party.
  7. T he Executive Committee of the Communist International Theses on the United Front defined it as follows: “The tactic of the united front is nothing other than the proposal made by the Communists  to  all workers,  whether  they are members of other parties or groups or of none, to fight alongside them, to defend the elementary and vital interests of the working class against the bourgeoisie. Every action for even the smallest demand is a source of revolutionary education, because the experience of combat will convince the working people of the necessity of the revolution, and will demonstrate the meaning of Communism to them.”
  8. In fact, the comrades do include as part of their definition that it’s “a means for the revolutionaries to help mobilise the masses in struggle and to win over the best of the ranks of the workers organisations to the revolutionary movement when their leaders were exposed as being unwilling or incapable of fighting capitalism”. This is correct. However, they don’t appear  to appreciate  how  it can be  applied  to today’s  situation to win over workers looking towards other organisations.
  9. While the ‘Brief Contribution’ never uses the word ‘method’ in relation to characterizing the united front, they warn against using ‘elements of United Front’ because “there is danger that  it  is  a  shorthand  that  can  confuse  and  miseducate  comrades,  rather  than  clarify.”  I agree  there  is a danger of  miseducating  the  comrades.  However  the  main  danger  as  I see it, is failing to educate the comrades about the united front at all, let alone with what words you use to describe how it is employed by sections of the CWI today.
  10. It is not the narrow version of a united front tactic, as defined by the ‘Brief Contribution’, which has relevance today. Instead, it is elements or aspects of the fundamental method outlined above which have applicability today. T he approach of the CWI has  always  been  to strive  to connect with those forces moving into action, understanding that there are illusions or non-revolutionary ideas influencing them and in part, mobilising them, but seeking to show the limitations of those ideas and through positive proposals and demands prove the superiority of our revolutionary ideas. This  is how we related to illusions in the  idea of a Labour government in Britain in the 1980s, to ‘reclaiming the Democrats’ in the US, and to the influence of left-nationalism amongst the working class in Catalonia now. It is also how our comrades have intervened in Brazil, calling for a vote for the PT’s Haddad in the second round to defeat Bolsonaro and participating in joint mobilisations with the PT and others.
  11. Applying the united  front  method  today  means  understanding that workers do not only orientate to traditional workers’ parties, and therefore this method has relevance beyond  those  workers’  parties.  Indeed,  the  CWI  internationally has implemented this general method to non working-class formations, where they have a mass base of support amongst workers  we are seeking  to win.  For example, the  method  informed our approach to the ANC in South Africa, and more recently  towards  the  National  Conscience  Party  in  Nigeria. T his was seen most recently in the approach we took in the US to Bernie Sanders, a candidate in the primary elections in one of the US’ two big capitalist parties. 25. T hese examples are in line with Trotsky’s approach to the Kuomintang. While mercilessly criticising the political and organisational subordination of the Chinese  Communist Party to this bourgeois nationalist formation, he did not exclude joint work with the Kuomintang, on the condition that political and organisational independence was maintained: “The drawing of organisational lines, which inevitably flows from the class differentiation, does not rule out, but on the contrary presupposes – under existing conditions – a political block with the Kuomintang as a whole or with particular elements of it, throughout the republic or in particular provinces, depending on the circumstances. But first of all, the CCP must ensure its own complete organisational independence and clarity of political programme and tactics in the struggle for influence over the awakened proletarian masses.” Not a “unified approach” with other forces
  12. In the ‘Brief Contribution’ and at discussions at the NEC, the comrades also seem at times to equate the idea of united front method with having a “unified approach” with other forces. There is a danger here of misrepresenting the united front method  as  one  which  involves  giving  up  our  independent  position  and  adopting  a  common  programme  or “unified approach”’ with broader forces. We see many examples of this today where groups such as the SWP form blocs 53with non-revolutionary and even non-working class groups and refuse to raise political differences or to challenge those ideas, in effect reinforcing illusions that exist rather than challenging them.
  13. In reality Trotsky made it clear that even in a specific united front, there was a need for clear differentiation from other forces: “No common platform  with  the  Social  Democracy,  or  with the  leaders  of  the  German  trade  unions,  no  common  publications, banners, placards! March separately, but strike together! Agree only how to strike, whom to strike and when to  strike!  Such an agreement  can be  concluded  even with  the devil himself, with his grandmother, and even with Noske and Grezesinsky. On one condition, not to bind one’s hands.”
  14. T hat sums up  one  key  aspect  of  a  united  front:  agreement for joint action with broader forces, including possibly with their leadership, in order to achieve real gains for the working class but that agreement must ensure independence for  the revolutionary  party.  The united front method also means revolutionaries fight in that movement to expose the limitations of the other organisations and ideas, to prove the superiority of revolutionary ideas and seek to win a majority to a revolutionary programme and the leadership of the revolutionary  party.
  15. Lenin explained this concretely in terms of how the united front method was used by the Bolsheviks in the struggle against Kornilov’s attempted coup against the Kerensky government in August 1917. He argued that the Bolsheviks should organise against the coup together with Mensheviks and SRs. In doing so, they were not letting up in their criticisms of the Kerensky government, but in fact were exposing it in practice, and therefore more effectively convincing workers of the necessity of establishing a new government based on the Soviets: “We shall fight, we are fighting against Kornilov, but we do not support Kerensky; we are uncovering his weaknesses. The distinction is rather delicate, but highly important and must not be forgotten. “What does the change of our tactics consist of after the Kornilov insurrection? “In this, that we are varying the forms of struggle against Kerensky. Without diminishing our hostility to him even by one single note, without taking back one word from what we have said against him,  without  giving  up  the  task  of  overthrowing Kerensky, we say: we must calculate the moment. We will not overthrow Kerensky at present. We approach the question of the struggle against him differently: by explaining the weaknesses and vacillations of Kerensky to the people (who are f ighting against Kornilov).” 30. In order for this to be successful, it is vital that the revolutionary party maintains its political independence when implementing this method. It is necessary for the revolutionary party to intervene energetically to argue for its distinct position, not only in relation to the concrete struggle, but to raise its more general programme about the need for socialist change. As it was put it in the “Short Thesis on the Revolutionary Party” at the time of the Scottish debate: “Compelled to undertake activity of a ‘united front’ character, the role of our party, its special, distinct character, and differences  with other  parties,  can  be  lost sight  of  unless  there  is a constant effort on behalf of the leadership to delineate our position with regard to other organisations and trends on programme, perspectives, strategy and tactics.” What the united front method is actually about
  16. T he united front method, therefore, is actually about highlighting the  real  differences  between  revolutionary  ideas and other ideas which influence the working class in practice, instead of presenting those differences abstractly as an obstacle to a joint struggle, as for example with the  ultra-left  ‘Red United Front’ proposed by the Stalinists early 1930s, which effectively set a pre-condition of workers breaking with the Social Democratic leaders in order to join a united struggle against  fascism.  This  is,  as  Trotsky  put  it,  the  “party…mechanically counterpos[ing] itself to th[e] need of the working class for unity in action [for which it] will unfailingly be condemned in the minds of the workers.”  32. To sum up the united front method as concisely as possible, it is about revolutionaries:
  17. •Trying to mobilise those sections of workers influenced by non-revolutionary ideas or organisations into struggle to achieve concrete gains for the working class (including but not limited to doing that through specific united front type coalitions with other groups), and
  18. •Raising our ideas in those struggles to expose the limits and flaws of other ideas and organisations, showing how revolutionary ideas not only practically provide the best guide to action in that specific struggle, but also best explain the causes and solutions to the problems facing the working class more generally, thereby seeking to win workers to revolutionary ideas and the revolutionary party.
  19. This method is counterposed to failing or refusing to expose those non-revolutionary ideas in the name of ‘unity’ on the one hand, and a sectarian approach on the other. This struggles – that is to adopt the united front method. sectarian approach is seen sometimes by  socialists  refusing to ‘dirty their hands’ with struggles for reforms (e.g. SPGB), or more commonly where revolutionaries intervene into those movements primarily in a denunciatory way, issuing often correct condemnations of the non-revolutionary forces, epitomised by the KKE’s 2015 election slogan ‘Don’t trust Syriza’  in the hopes of ‘smashing illusions’. While this approach can win over some of the most advanced layers, it does not seriously challenge the influence of non-revolutionary ideas over the  broader working class,  nor does  it correctly train cadre  as to how to intervene with the broader working class.

Relevance of the united front method today

  1. McL and LF have suggested that because of the absence of mass  workers’  parties,  the  united  front  doesn’t  have any  relevance  for  Ireland  today.  I  think  that  is  fundamentally incorrect and gets to the heart of an important difference. Of course, the classical united front tactic of an initiative aimed at a mass workers’ party, with mass memberships with deep affiliation as there was in the 1920s and 1930s, cannot be implemented today in the absence of such a party. However, the crucial conditions of revolutionaries being in a minority and the majority of workers looking to ideas or organisations to our right, but being willing to struggle for their fundamental  interests  alongside  us are present. It  is therefore  a crucial method for seeking to build the influence of and size of our party.
  2. Key elements of the united front method are vital in our interventions today, particularly when  we are working with other forces. This method informed our approach to working in the Labour Party in the past and it can still be important in workplace and trade union work. For example, as part of the National Housing & Homeless Coalition, we are involved in a campaign with trade unions and political parties, including Sinn Fein. We agree to struggle together for agreed demands, mobilising for demonstrations for example, while maintaining our own political identity and raising our own programme as well as proposing the tactics and strategy that  we  consider  best.  In  no  way  do  we  subordinate  our  political or organisational independence. This is an important aspect of the united front method and has also informed our approach to Right2Water and Together4Yes.
  3. T he working class is under the influence of different ideas and illusions, such as reformism, left  populism,  identity politics, nationalism and left-nationalism. These ideas often       find an expression in movements or campaigns, which can have a relatively limited duration compared to the stable parties  of  the  past.  Our  goal  has  to  be  to  try  break  them  from those ideas, and from following the leadership of organisations based on them. A key means of doing that is to engage in common  struggle, and raise our revolutionary ideas  in those

United front methods & Sinn Fein

  1. The differences over the theory and relevance of united front methods for today find their clearest concrete expression in relation to how to take up Sinn Fein and relate to those layers of working class people who look towards them. I think, at times, we have deployed elements of the united front method successfully in seeking to break layers of the electoral support from them. The comrades  disagree. In their  ‘Brief Contribution’ they reject the idea that we have used any aspect of the united front method in relation to Sinn Fein.
  2. How we understand  the  tactics  we  have  implemented in the past has importance for the present. It has an impact in how we train and educate our comrades in our method.  Failing to understand the importance of applying the united front method has resulted in mistakes in the past in relation to Sinn Fein, and can result in mistakes in the future. It is not enough to simply have a very skilful leadership, we must also generalise our experience, and educate our membership in the underlying theory and method, so they too can develop these skills and abilities.

What is Sinn Fein?

  1. T he comrades in their ‘Brief Contribution’ respond to my description of Sinn Fein as a nationalist, pro-capitalist party saying the following: “Of course they are  “nationalist,  pro-capitalist  party”,  the reality is that Sinn Fein are a bourgeois nationalist party – but of fundamental importance to any political description of Sinn Fein is that they are a sectarian party. A party which currently plays a sectarian role in the North – whose armed wing in the past waged an individual terrorist armed struggle, that was overtly sectarian and at times directly targeted working class Protestants.”
  2. T here are a number of elements of this description, some of which need further explanation. While we have used the description “bourgeois nationalist party” for Sinn Fein in the last couple of years, it seems to me that further clarification may be needed.
  3. If the comrades mean it is a capitalist nationalist party, i.e. one with a pro-capitalist nationalist programme, as demonstrated by their implementation of austerity and sectarian policies in  Northern  Ireland,  then  I  completely  agree. However, if the term ‘bourgeois nationalist party’ is used to indicate a party which represents the nationalist aspirations of  the  bourgeoisie,  then  it  is  not  a precise  description  of  Sinn Fein.  While in the North, Sinn Fein has support amongst a section of the Catholic capitalist class, in the South, no significant section  of the capitalist class supports  Sinn Fein.  While  it does have support amongst a section of Irish American capitalists, it is fair to say that its support amongst the Irish capitalist class as a whole is relatively minimal.
  4. Undoubtedly, a key part of Sinn Fein’s strategy is to try to develop  that  support.  However,  to  simply  state  that  they have arrived at that station does not give a full picture of the character of Sinn Fein. In fact, the bourgeoisie and its media mouthpieces are quite open in expressing fear of Sinn Fein coming  into government.  This  fear,  of  course,  is  primarily  a fear  of  working  class  expectations of such  a government  and a fear that Sinn Fein’s nationalist agenda could inflame sectarian tensions, making life more difficult for the capitalist class.
  5. The ‘Brief Contribution’ makes the correct point that “[t]he approach that the party adopts towards Sinn Fein in the South cannot be divorced from these events [Sinn Fein’s involvement in sectarian killings], nor can it be divorced from the potential impact on the party in the North.”
  6. However, we should  also  not  ignore  the  differences in  how  Sinn  Fein  is  viewed  North  and  South,  as  it  impacts significantly on  how we  need to relate  to them.  In  general, Sinn Fein is viewed as more anti-establishment and radical in the South than in the North. We should be aware of this difference, while paying careful attention to the potential impact of tactics we pursue on one side of the border on our work on the other.
  7. It is correct to say Sinn Fein is a sectarian party, which acts to deepen sectarian divisions and divide the working class. It  currently  plays  a  sectarian  role  in  the  North,  including trying to coerce the Protestant working class into the southern State via a border poll. Its armed wing, the IRA, engaged in a campaign of individual terror mainly directed against the state, but which at times  targeted working class Protestants. This is a vital aspect of Sinn Fein and one that we must be particularly conscious of in how we seek to take them up in the South.
  8. However, it seems to me that the description of the Provisional IRA campaign as ‘overtly sectarian’, i.e. clearly and openly sectarian, is one sided. It was without doubt objectively sectarian, regardless  of  the  subjective  motivations  of  many IRA volunteers, and was perceived as such by Protestants. At times, such as with the Kingsmill massacre, that sectarianism was open. Most of the time, however, it was less overtly sectarian, more covert in fact. It was more complex,  given that it was covered in the language of anti-imperialism, as illustrated by what  Peter  Hadden explained in  ‘Towards Division  Not Peace’: “It was not the intention of the majority of the Provisional rank  and file  to  whip  up  sectarianism  or  to get  drawn into  a war with loyalist paramilitaries. There were times when they decided to respond to the loyalist assassinations in kind and when they were drawn into tit for tat sectarian killings. But in the main the young volunteers saw the campaign as directed against the state, against the British government and the army. They saw themselves as “freedom fighters” involved in a legitimate struggle against oppression and drew comparisons with organizations like the ANC in South Africa.” 49. Another important factor for us is the support it has amongst working class and young people. A recent opinion poll in the South (16 October, Irish Times) shows that in terms  of  voting  intentions  they  are  the  biggest  party  amongst young people (on 37% among 18-24 year olds), the biggest party amongst ‘Semi-skilled and unskilled manual workers, casual workers and the unemployed’ (with 35% support in the  ‘DE’  socio-economic  group),  and  amongst skilled  manual workers (on 32% for the ‘C2’ classification). They are the second biggest party (behind Fine Gael) amongst those who voted  for  repeal  of  the  8th  amendment,  as  well  as  being  the second biggest overall in Dublin, and and even nationwide in some polls such as the September 2018 Behaviour and Attitudes Poll which also showed a lot of popularity for their new leader Mary Lou McDonald.
  9. This support is not of a similar character to that of mass workers’ parties in the past. It is overwhelmingly of an unorganised character and is passive, being just expressed at election time. There is not a relationship of loyalty between the significant majority of those who are open to vote for Sinn Fein and the party. Fundamentally, there is not a deep illusion among these people about what Sinn Fein represents. Instead, there is a sense that Sinn Fein is the largest, most ‘credible’ party which offers at least rhetorical opposition to the policies of the establishment. On that basis, people are willing to vote for them, but particularly with the recent experience of a perceived Labour ‘betrayal’, are suspicious of a future betrayal by Sinn Fein.
  10. The limitations to the support were reflected to some degree in the recent Presidential election where the Sinn Fein candidate received only  6.4%  of  the  vote,  significantly  less than  the  support  indicated  for  the  party  in  opinion  polls.  This was because of the weaknesses of the candidate and mistakes made by Sinn Fein in the course of that election, as well as the presence  of the  outgoing President, Michael  D. Higgins, who was better positioned to win the votes of many left-leaning young and working class people. In a more positive way, this was also seen in the Dublin South West By-Election.


  1. The comrades in the ‘Brief Contribution’ argue that those with major questions about Sinn Fein “would include substantial layers of class conscious workers who regard Sinn  Fein  with  suspicion  and  sometimes  with hostility. This is because of the role of the Provisional IRA during the Troubles and because they see the sectarian role that Sinn Fein play in the North, but also because they have openly embraced the constraints of neo-liberalism in recent y ears.”
  2. This overstates the impact of Sinn Fein and the IRA’s sectarian role in the North in undermining  support amongst working class people in the South. Undoubtedly, such a layer  exists,  however  this  is  a  small  and  aging  minority  of  class conscious workers in the South at least. Far more have questions due to their rightward trajectory, the recent experience of Labour entering a coalition with Fine Gael and Sinn Fein’s increasing public openness about going into coalition with Fianna Fail or Fine Gael after the next election. 54. It is also true that we can win people directly through our own programme and activities now, as the illusions in Sinn Fein are not generally deep. However, while the illusions in a specific party, organisation or candidate are shallow enough, there are deeper illusions more generally in the idea of a reformist alternative being possible. There is a willingness amongst large layers to set aside doubts or differences they have and back what they see as the largest anti-austerity and anti-establishment party which is best positioned to win and form a government.
  3. Despite all of its limitations, Sinn Fein remains an important obstacle to the development of a new mass working class party in the South today. It is far from an absolute block, and in the context of an upsurge of struggle around the water charges, we were able to very effectively undermine them. But we will not be able to dispel the illusions that exist by simply ‘speaking  the  truth’.  It  will  be  necessary  to  mobilise those layers into struggle and intervene into those movements to undermine those illusions – in other words, to use united front methods. Applying the united front method to challenge Sinn Fein
  4. An excellent example in the party’s recent history of how to challenge Sinn Fein was in the Dublin South West byelection. Here, a very critical and ‘hard’ approach was taken to Sinn Fein, on  the  concrete  issue  of  water  charges  to  illustrate in practice the weaknesses of their programme and approach, and win over their supporters.
  5. In their document, the comrades claim that: “We did this not by making appeals to Sinn Fein to change their position or to join with us in campaigning to build a mass movement of non-payment, aimed at their supporters and voters but by actually exposing the contradictions in their propaganda and approach to the struggle to defeat the water charges.” This is a very imbalanced retelling of our approach, which makes it seem like we did not use elements of a united front method. The reality, I believe, is different.
  6. While it is true that we “expos[ed] the contradictions in their propaganda”, we didn’t do this merely by denunciation. A consistent element of our campaign was appealing to Sinn Fein supporters  to  vote  for  us  to apply  pressure  on  Sinn Fein  “to change their position” and “join with us in campaigning to  build  a  mass  movement  of  non-payment”.  In  the election leaflet the comrades themselves quote it clearly says “The election of Paul Murphy would make it clear to Sinn Fein that a weak position on Water Charges in the future will not be tolerated”. This was a theme running through much of our election posters, leaflets and other material.
  7. As KMcL explained in his article reviewing the By Election campaign: “We said to  voters  that  if  you  do  not  support  Sinn  Fein’s  position on water charges, then use this election to send them a warning about their poor position by voting number 1 for Paul Murphy. As a sign of the effectiveness of our campaign, Sinn Fein was forced to change its position mid-campaign. The party said that the abolition of water charges was now a pre-condition before they would go into a new coalition government. In response, we produced 25,000 new leaflets that pointed out that putting pressure on Sinn Fein is working, so keep it up!”
  8. T hroughout the campaign, numerous local anti-water charge protests were organised where we made the case for non-payment, and criticised Sinn Fein for supporting or advocating non-payment and not using their profile  and resources to help build non-payment. In advance of the by-election, after the local elections, we made a proposal to Sinn  Fein and others on the local Council to establish an anti-austerity bloc.
  9. We wrote to all other Councillors with an open letter: As the largest group  on the  Council,  we recognise  that Sinn Fein is best placed to lead negotiations to establish such an anti-austerity majority. Out of forty councillors in total, that Sinn Fein has nine councillors, the AAA has three, PBPA has three and there are eight Independent councillors, this clearly shows there is potential to have an anti austerity majority. Pressure to really represent the anti austerity aspirations of the people should be brought to bear on all these councillors, in particular  the  Independents  and  Labour.  We  therefore  call  on Sinn Fein to take the initiative to bring together that majority.”

. T his approach is precisely an implementation of elements of the united front method. On the one hand we attempted to mobilise people, including those with illusions in Sinn Fein, with the issue of water charges. We then intervened into that with concrete proposals which clearly flowed from the needs of the movement but which also exposed the limits of Sinn Fein’s programme, and thereby won people to vote for us.

General Election 2016

  1. In the General Election in 2016 we also grappled with how to take up Sinn Fein, and in the end took an approach I believe is a further good example of elements of a united front method in action.
  2. In the run up to that election, Sinn Fein were arguing that they wanted what they called a “left-led government”, by which they meant a government in which they were the biggest party, or in which they plus another supposedly ‘left’  party  were  bigger  than  any  establishment  party  in  the  coalition, but which could also involve Fianna Fail. At the same time others on the left were raising the idea of a coalition government made up just of Sinn Fein and the left, even though the numbers for that seemed unlikely. Understandably the idea of a government along these lines would be attractive to sections of the working class, especially those layers desperate for an end to Fianna Fail and Fine Gael in government, given that there was no prospect of a government made up just of those forces to the left of Sinn Fein. On December 9th 2015 I wrote an op-ed article agreed by the NEC for the Irish Times where we explained: “If  it is  possible  after  the next general election  to  form a  government without the traditional establishment parties, the Anti-Austerity Alliance will discuss with others to see if a left programme for government can be agreed. This would have to include the reversal of the cuts implemented over the last years,  abolition  of  austerity  taxes  such  as  water  charges  and property tax, investment to resolve the housing crisis and increasing the minimum wage and improving working conditions. “Implementing these policies means prioritising public services and housing over paying the bankers’ debts, shifting the burden of taxation on to the wealthy, corporations and high-income earners and challenging the straitjacket of the EU’s “Austerity Treaty”. A left government would also repeal the Eighth Amendment and challenge the oppression faced by women, Travellers, migrants and others. “Unfortunately,  we  have  major  doubts  as  to  whether  Sinn  Féin would agree to such a programme. As one of the architects of the “Fresh Start” agreement in the North, it has demonstrated that it is willing to implement austerity, agreeing to welfare cuts and 20,000 job losses, while also cutting corporation tax. In the North, they are based on one community and the party’s actions deepen sectarian division. “Its recent talk about coalition with Fianna Fáil  and Labour will cause concern among those who look to Sinn Féin to bring about change. If Sinn Féin truly wanted to see an end of the  rule  of the  establishment  parties  in this country, it  would rule out coalition with them and instead declare for an antiausterity government based on non-establishment forces. “In the case that no left programme for government can be agreed, but a government could be formed without the establishment parties, our TDs will vote in the Dáil to allow the formation of that alternative government. While we would not  participate  in  a  government  without  a  left  programme,  we would allow that government to come to power and then vote to support measures that benefit working-class people and oppose ones that do not. “At  the  same  time,  we  would  seek  to  build  a  mass  movement outside the Dáil to put pressure on the government to deliver on its promises and to achieve a genuine left government as soon as possible.”
  3. Similar formulations were used in our leaflets in General Election. This approach again utilised elements of the united front method, connecting with the positive aspirations of working class people for a left government, while demonstrating in a concrete way the limitations in Sinn Fein’s programme which meant  that  they  wouldn’t  deliver  such  a government. In retrospect, we should have strengthened the programmatic points with a demand that explicitly broke with capitalism and emphasised the need for public ownership, but with that correction the approach was correct.  It highlighted the limits of Sinn Fein and contrasted it with our willingness to place no barriers to doing what was necessary.
  4. T he comrades describe this as a “skilful” and “nuanced and principled” position. I agree, but leaving it at that understates the importance of generalising and explaining the theoretical foundations of  how  we  deal  with  these  issues.  It  is not enough to just have a skilful leadership able to navigate these issues, we must also have an educated cadre which understands  the  reasoning  and  methodology  so  it  is  confident  to intervene, if needs be, to correct any errors. Without generalising and theorising our approach, there is a real danger that instead we will miseducate our cadre, zig-zag ‘pragmatically’ and apply  this method in an  uneven,  unconscious, fashion. This can result in significant mistakes on future issues.
  5. I believe that this pragmatic and empirical approach has already resulted in missed opportunities, where we have failed to apply it correctly.

Earlier mistake in GE 2016 68.

A real concrete difference we have had on the issue of Sinn Fein is the question of our approach in the elections which I described above. While the position I outlined above was  ultimately  agreed  to,  we  adopted a  more  denunciatory  approach beforehand, which I argued against. This was shown in the answer we gave to the Right2Change question, when they  asked  us  in  October  2015  “Does  the  AAA  agree  now  to form a progressive government based on this platform if the numbers allow?”  and we answered: “The AAA is open to participate in government but not a government that includes  any  parties  associated  with  austerity or a government whose policy is based on operating within the strict fiscal rules set by the EU or capitalism. We want a government that will scrap the unjust taxes and charges and reverse the draconian austerity cuts that have been implemented;  a  government  that  immediately  sets  about  the  transformation of the economy on the basis of democratic public ownership of the key sections of the economy to ensure people’s needs not profit is the basis of society. The transformation  of Syriza,  in only six  months, from  being  an anti-austerity party into leading a pro-austerity government shows that real change can only happen if a government is made up of parties or TDs who are prepared and committed to break capitalist rules. We believe mass mobilisations of working class people will be crucial if the programme of such a genuine left government is to be fully implemented.”

  1. T his answer is theoretically correct. But it is too abstract and doesn’t take sufficient account  of  the  aspiration  of working class people for what they would see as a left government. Simply saying to workers who desire a left government that we won’t be part of it if it is based on operating within capitalism can come across as if our opposition is based on a moral, or philosophical problem, rather than flowing from the real needs of the working class. This is further compounded by the introduction to these answers given on the AntiAusterity Alliance website where we said: “For us the involvement of Sinn Fein in Right2Change unfortunately meant that we couldn’t be involved as it is clear that when it suits, Sinn Fein like Labour and Syriza in Greece, will make compromises with the system and that will undermine the whole basis of the initiative and lead to a dead end. We have a political responsibility to point out these problems in advance and not allow a situation where the movement is encouraged to look to another new dawn that would, unfortunately, prove to be false.”
  2. to simply “tell the truth to the working class”, we must explain it and where possible go through the experience with them. Unfortunately the approach quoted above leaves us wide open to being misrepresented as having a sectarian attitude. No matter what we said we would have been attacked, however we should have featured our later position there, as outlined in the quote from the Irish Times article above.
  3. T hankfully the approach was corrected, but only after KMcL went to a meeting where JH spoke and the more ‘blunt’ approach towards Sinn Fein and the idea of an ‘alternative government’ went down badly. The change in approach was also done without any acknowledgement of a change, and indeed with an explicit statement at NEC level that we had not changed our position,  and  we  had  not  made  a  mistake.  Unfortunately  this falls far  short  of Lenin’s approach  in  “Left  Wing Communism an Infantile Disorder” where he argued that: “A political party’s attitude towards its own mistakes is one of the most important and surest ways of judging how earnest the party is and how it fulfills in practice its obligations towards its class and the working people. Frankly acknowledging a mistake, ascertaining the reasons for it, analysing the conditions that have led up to it, and thrashing out the means of its rectification—that is the hallmark of a serious party; that is how it should perform its duties, and how it should educate and train its class, and then the masses.” 72. Changing position in this way, without fully acknowledging  the  change  and  discussing  it  out  means  that  the lessons are not learned and similar errors are likely to be made again in the future. This was demonstrated to me in discussions with NC members in advance of the October NC meeting,  where  a number of  NC  comrades  were unaware  of the final position we adopted towards the question of an ‘alternative government’. Challenging Sinn Fein today
  4. In their ‘Brief Contribution’ responding to issues I have raised, the comrades say: “Some comrades have been unnecessarily hesitant in making direct criticisms but instead make implied or indirect criticisms. For example, focusing criticism on Sinn Fein for their openness at bringing Fianna Fail or Fine Gael back into power, rather than also showing how what Sinn Fein are putting forward will not at all deal with the key issues facing people. Or demonstrating that they are not using their huge resources to fight on the issues. This is a missed opportunity to raise the level of people by alluding to their real and actual experience of Sinn Fein, a reality that Sinn Fein are trying to camouflage.” 74. 59 Again this is correct theoretically, but it is not enough Is this is a suggestion that I am or have been hesitant in making direct criticisms of Sinn Fein? Days before the current debate broke out, at the Dail Executive (which organises our parliamentary work) preparing for the Solidarity – People Before Profit think-in, I argued, in response to another NEC member, that it would be insufficient to criticise Sinn Fein for being willing to go into coalition with right-wing parties and instead it was necessary to illustrate how that was connected to their own pro-capitalist programme.
  5. Are the comrades suggesting that starting criticism of Sinn Fein with their willingness to go into coalition with the traditional right-wing parties is incorrect? Are they suggesting we shouldn’t point to how they do not use their resources to fight on the issues?
  6. Criticising Sinn Fein’s willingness to go into coalition with Fianna Fail or Fine Gael is an excellent starting point for a discussion with potential Sinn Fein voters or supporters who we are seeking to intervene with. That is precisely because it begins from a point of common understanding that we have with more left-wing sections of potential Sinn Fein voters – that Fine Gael (FG) and Fianna Fail (FF) are antiworking class establishment parties and that the experience of coalition of supposedly left-wing parties such as Labour or the Green Party with FF/FG was disastrous. The fact that they are seeking such a coalition with FF/FG also illustrates that Sinn Fein is not even committed to the more progressive elements of its own programme, given that FF/FG would undoubtedly veto large parts of it. That point is readily understood by working class people.
  7. Of course, this is merely the beginning of the criticism. It leads directly to the point that  Sinn Fein’s  willingness to go into  coalition with Fianna Fail  or Fine Gael  means it does not stand for the interests of working class people.
  8. In terms of highlighting how Sinn Fein “are not using their huge resources to fight on the issues” this too can be an important point that will expose them particularly when large numbers of working class people are prepared to engage in struggles such as with the water charges. The broad message we give should be that Sinn Fein claims to want to make real change. We are prepared to fight for such a change, we believe Sinn Fein is not. Let workers see it in practice – either Sinn Fein uses its resources and we can show how a struggle can win gains, or Sinn Fein doesn’t fight and the lesson is clear. As demonstrated above, this line of argument did in fact feature in relation to our by-election material in relation to the water charges and Sinn Fein, and is an implementation of one element of the united front method.

Critiquing Sinn Fein’s programme

  1. In addition, we should criticise Sinn Fein’s programme and explain its significant limitations. In a number of articles since the  General  Election,  we have  correctly  gone through Sinn Fein’s manifesto in that election and critiqued it. The manifesto clearly represented a further step to the right in the public presentation of Sinn Fein’s programme. However, it did claim to support numerous anti-austerity measures which would appeal to working class people, such as: On Taxes: Abolish Property tax, Water Charges and college fees, increase taxes capital gains and acquisitions, increases taxes on those earning over 100k, and ‘examine the introduction of a wealth tax’ On Health: Abolish charges for Emergency Department and Inpatient  care,  increase  health  spending  by  €3.3.bn,  roll  out free GP care and ‘move towards universal health care’ On Housing: Build 70k social and 30k ‘cost purchase and cost rental’ housing units by 2030, link rent increases to inflation, cap mortgage interest rates On Workers’ Rights: Mandatory trade union recognition and collective bargaining rights, ‘fair hour contracts’ to stop zero-hour and ‘if and when’ contracts, increase the minimum wage, make the public sector a ‘living wage’ employer
  2. The focus of our criticism of Sinn Fein’s programme has been highlighting its evident inadequacies. For example, CG in an article on the website on 14 August 2017 argued: “Ultimately, by accepting the limits of what capitalism could afford, Sinn Féin were unwilling to put forward the measures to bring about the real change that working-class people fundamentally aspire to. A government based on their programme would not change conditions for most people.”
  3. In the January 2018 edition of our paper, KMcL argued that: “What Sinn Féin advocated on issues like the minimum wage, housing and public spending at the last election were so minimal they aren’t in any way capable of dealing with these vital questions for the majority of people in our society. They accept the logic of the capitalist market and in doing so will accept the reality of a housing crisis and low pay.”
  4. T hese formulations fail to recognise the fact that, given the pushing back of consciousness and the relatively low level of expectations, large elements of Sinn Fein’s programme sound positive and radical  to  large  sections of the  working class. They understandably feel that if such reforms were actually enacted, they would impact significantly on their lives. T hat does not mean that the programme is adequate of course to address the problems that working class people face, it does not deliver the socialist change the working class needs. However, to the extent that we are seeking to speak to broader layers of the working class, as well as train our comrades to do so, we should take that consciousness into account.
  5. While it is correct to criticise the limitations of SF’s programme, how we do that matters. We should also explain how even elements of that limited programme would be viciously opposed by the rich and the EU and blocked by Fianna Fail or Fine Gael in any coalition government. Many genuine workers will have illusions that a left programme could be implemented without the kind of clash with the ruling class and the EU that we warn would be necessary. This illusion is one we must combat, explaining that in order to actually implement an anti-austerity agenda, a left government needs to be willing to take measures such as nationalisation and capital controls.
  6. We cannot come across as simply doctrinaires, morally opposed to  anything  but  revolutionary  change.  Instead we must patiently explain that we will do everything in our power to fight for reforms, but those reforms will be resisted every inch of the way.  Fundamentally, they will only be able to be achieved through revolutionary socialist change, based on an active movement of the working class.
  7. Such an approach can also more thoroughly convince these people of our ideas. However, it would be idealistic to think that even the most skilful presentation of our arguments will dispel these illusions from the broad layers of the working class, and convince them of the revolutionary programme. That is why we must also understand that it is through struggle that this will really be tested. This is why we also need united front methods to try mobilise those workers who support those demands to fight alongside us now for them, and intervene into those movements which would be a more fertile arena for these arguments.

How to put forward a Socialist Programme today Defining the transitional method

  1. The ‘Brief Contribution’ describes the transitional method as follows: “[W]hile we fight on the key issues, we have also sought to explain how this system is undermining and eroding their living standards.” “By convincing people of an anti-capitalist position – using specific demands that connect with key aspects of peoples’ lives and struggles, but which also strike at the very heart of the way capitalism operates – we can in turn convince workers and young people of the need to struggle for a left and socialist government, based upon a break with capitalism and the democratic public ownership and planning of the key sectors of  the  economy.” “Such a method begins by identifying key issues that are essential for working-class people and then systematically and thoroughly exposes why capitalism is fundamentally incapable of resolving these issues and of meeting the needs and upholding the rights of the majority in society”
  2. T hese descriptions are not in isolation, incorrect, but taken together they  are one sided. They  have a  tendency  to present two distinct tasks – on the one hand fighting on the key issues now, on the other hand explaining how capitalism cannot  resolve  them.  In  reality,  these  are  entirely  connected tasks. We need to put forward a programme flowing from the problems facing people that has an anti-capitalist logic – that reveals, flowing from their struggle and being explicit about it, that revolutionary socialist change is necessary.
  3. What is also  missing  from  the  comrades’  definition is the fact that the transitional method is also about drawing people into struggle, where the mass of people will learn. Instead there is a certain focus on just winning people through anti-capitalist arguments.
  4. T he description provided  by  Peter  Hadden  in  ‘The Struggle for Socialism Today’ is more comprehensive and balanced: “Transitional  demands  cannot  be  divorced  from  the  struggle to implement them. It is true that in a general sense the demands which make up the Transitional Programme cannot be fully realised and consolidated within the confines of the present system. This programme is modest — for a decent standard of living to be guaranteed to all — but the fight to achieve it raises the question of where the resources to meet these needs will come from. This inability of the market to deliver  poses  the  need  for  an  alternative,  for  public  ownership of the wealth-producing industries so that additional wealth can be generated to cater for human need, not to satisfy the thirst of a few for profit. That is why this programme is “transitional” — the struggle to achieve these demands brings the working class up against the limitations of capitalism, or, in Trotsky’s words, to the “doorstep” of the socialist revolution.”
  5. T he tendency in the definitions given by the comrades to divorce  current  day to  day  struggle  from  winning people to the need for a socialist programme is reflected in practice in two ways. On the one hand, when confronted by a mass audience such as at election time, in some cases we have diminished the socialist content of our programme. On the other hand, when dealing with difficult political issues, without any mass audience, we have at times put forward our programme in an abstract way – explaining how capitalism cannot resolve the problems facing people, without the ‘bridge’ of transitional demands to connect to consciousness and bring it to that conclusion. The election campaign in the General Election 2016 and our approach to Brexit illustrate the two sides of that coin.

General Election 2016

  1. It is good  that  the  comrades  in  ‘Our  Response  to  the Issues’ describe the programmatic weaknesses of the material produced in the General Election 2016 as a “significant mistake”. This was a mistake which the entire leadership collectively (including me) contributed to. It resulted in a situation where for the mass of people watching us our programme for socialist change, for democratic public ownership, came across insufficiently, and instead the primary message was one of taxing the rich to fund improved public services. Unfortunately, it  is  entirely  inaccurate  to  suggest  that  the  delegation of comrades who attended the meeting in London in 2016 “readily accepted that it was a mistake.” In fact, the acceptance that a mistake was made only came as a result of a back-and forth debate with IS comrades.
  2. Despite the acceptance of a mistake in the elections, recent Solidarity newsletters for mass distribution in electoral constituencies continue to suffer from the same weaknesses.

The most recent newsletters contain no mention of nationalisation, socialism or socialist policies, with the most far reaching demand being “we fight for system change and a new society  which  puts  the needs of  the  many above  the  greed  of the few.”

Our programme on Brexit

  1. How we have  programmatically  dealt  with  the  issue of Brexit and sought to address the widespread fears of the impact of a hardened border is a good example of the more abstract approach. What the comrades write in the ‘Brief Contribution’ is in line with this general approach.
  2. At the start of the year CG wrote a good, substantial article on Brexit on behalf of the NEC putting forward our position. However, when it comes to addressing the number one issue about Brexit for the majority of people in Ireland – namely the  possibility  of  an  increased  border,  with  all  of  the consequences in terms of the economy and the potential for an increase in sectarian violence, it argues the following: “We say that whatever way the different capitalist vested interests resolve their business dispute, it must be done without any physical or repressive borders.”
  3. This far too passive and abstract position has been repeatedly echoed and emphasised in oral discussion along the lines of “You [the capitalists] deal with this yourselves. We’re not going to accept any division.” It accepts that the capitalist classes are in power and simply says  they  must implement Brexit without physical borders. What it doesn’t say is how this real problem would be addressed by a left government with a socialist programme. This is all the more important as the issue of the border is being used by the EU in the negotiations as a key weapon to undermine Brexit in order to send a warning to people across Europe about the consequences of leaving. The successful establishment of such a ‘Hotel California’ narrative that you can check in, but not check out of the EU or the euro, would be a negative for working class people across Europe.


  1. In the ‘Brief Contribution’, the comrades’ emphasis is to say the trade union movement should organise a conference and  take  action  to  ensure  no  attacks  on  workers’  rights. T his is a good demand, which brings to the fore the need for independent action by the working class to avoid any burden for Brexit being placed on their shoulders. In the North, it would offer an alternative pole to the sectarianised discussion on Brexit promoted by the nationalist and unionist parties.

The November NC saw good discussion about using our trade union positions in the North to try to initiate such a conference.

  1. However, this correct initiative is not an alternative to developing our programme in relation to what a left socialist government would do in Ireland or in Britain. Brexit and the fears of workers on this island in relation to the possibility of a border are a key issue facing us. We have to find a formulation to say what we think should happen and what our vision of a socialist exit is. This will be particularly important in next year’s  European  elections,  and  our  local  election  campaign in Fermanagh, in both of which we are likely to be asked to explain our support for a Leave vote and what our alternative approach would have been.
  2. At the October NC, I gave an example of what I had argued to be inserted into a speech in the Dail on Brexit at the end of September: “Corbyn’s position, outlined  in  a  speech  in  February,  gives  an outline  of  how  a  left  government  would  deal  with  the  issue  of the Customs Union. Effectively, he counterposed the existing pro-capitalist Customs Union to one in the interests of working people. This would ensure no hard border and tariff-free trade, but without all of the neo-liberal rules and restrictions which would block a left government from implementing policies such as nationalisation. If Corbyn boldly put this position forward, instead of seeking compromise with the Blairites, and linked it to the need for socialist change, it would be enormously popular on this island and in Britain. It would oly on foreign trade to the fore? address the real fears and concerns of working people in relation to the economy and the border.”
  3. T his approach is in line with that adopted by the comrades in England & Wales. I put this forward, not as a f inished, final position, but as a contribution to developing our programme on Brexit.
  4. In the context of the political crisis in Britain, even in Ireland it  is  necessary  to  bring  to  the  fore  the  demand  for a rejection of the agreement, a general election in Britain and for Corbyn to come to power on a socialist programme. That is what opens up the prospect of a very different negotiation process, which could echo across Europe. We should argue that Corbyn should seek to re-open negotiations on a different basis – seeking market access and no hardening of borders – but eliminating all of the neo-liberal rules, such as the state aid rules, which are built into the current agreement.
  5. T his should be combined by Corbyn with internationalist appeals aimed  at  speaking  over  the  heads  of  those  he is negotiating  with. This  could include a  call for  the neo-liberal rules to be dropped for all across Europe, for the unsustainable debts to be cancelled, and for co-ordinated action on a European basis for a just transition to a carbon free economy, based  on  public  ownership  and  democratic  planning.  It  could make it harder for the dominant imperialist countries in the EU  to  maintain  their  unified  bloc  against  Britain.  Even  with such  an  approach,  of  course,  there  is  no  guarantee  of  being successful in seeking such an agreement. However, in that case, the responsibility for any increase in borders and loss of market access would correctly be placed at the door of the European powers.

Objections to the alternative Customs Union formulation

  1. At the October  NC,  comrades  raised  criticisms  that an  alternative  Customs  Union  proposal  is  incompatible  with the demand for a state monopoly on foreign trade and that it would involve a left government in a trade bloc which is imperialistic  in  its  character.  Comrades  objecting  to  this  formulation laid emphasis on the need to be “honest” to the working class.
  2. Formally speaking, of course, they are right – any membership of a customs union is incompatible with a state monopoly on trade and EU trade policy is undoubtedly imperialistic. However, it is clearly the case that membership of the EU for Ireland is also incompatible with a state monopoly on foreign trade and involves Ireland in an imperialistic trade bloc. However, no comrades are in favour of raising the demand for Ireland to leave the EU at this stage. Are we guilty of not “telling the truth” to the working class when we don’t bring a demand to leave the EU and establish a state monopoly


  1. We always tell the truth to the working class. But we present the truth in the way which is most digestible to the working class at a particular time, bringing to the fore demands which address the pressing needs of working-class people and connecting them to the need for revolutionary socialist change and to activating the working class in struggle.
  2. Since the Russian revolution and the imposition of a state monopoly on foreign trade  in  the  Soviet Union, the world economy has been integrated to an even greater degree, with many workers in factories that are part of a production line that spans numerous countries. A good example of this is the case of the crankshaft  in the BMW mini  which crosses the English channel three times in its process of being built, installed and eventually sold. Workers in these industries, and many more, have a particularly acute fear of being cut off through trade barriers, or hardening or borders which we must take into account.
  3. Ultimately only socialist change across Ireland and in England, Scotland and Wales, resulting in the establishment of a socialist federation, linked to a federation of socialist states in Europe can guarantee no hardening of borders. However, even in the 1920s, the Soviet government struck trade and concession deals with capitalist countries in order to get access to necessary capital investment. In the event of a left socialist government leaving or being expelled from the EU, it would be necessary  to  fight  against  any  attempts  to  impose  a trade  embargo  against  it  and  raise  the  demand  for  an  alternative customs union. Such a demand would need to be linked to a call to workers across Europe to oppose any imposition of a trade embargo and to revolt against their own capitalist classes. Even if such an agreement was signed, any agreement with a capitalist power would of course only be temporary, and a matter of gaining some breathing space, while seeking to encourage revolutionary movements elsewhere in Europe.
  4. T he relationship of such an alternative customs union to exploitative trade deals concluded  by the  EU  would depend on the details of the agreement. However, within such an alternative customs union, of course a workers’ state would oppose and seek to expose across Europe and the world the character of the EU’s trade relations.
  5. Right now, the fears of workers in Ireland in relation to the impact of a hardening of a border are very real and justified. While much of the commentary has focused on the economic impact of a border, a key aspect for us is on the impact in terms of increased sectarianism. In this context, given the size and weight of the Party in Ireland, we should have something to say about how a left government with socialist policies would deal with this, as opposed to simply saying that the capitalist governments should find a way to implement Brexit without increased borders.
  6. At the November NC, the objection of SB to the alternative Customs Union formulation was motivated on the grounds that the phrase ‘Customs Union’ could alienate Protestants who see  it  as  a  demand  primarily  being  raised  by  the nationalist  parties.  The  objective reality  is  that  such  an  agreement would see no increase in borders, and should therefore assuage the fears of Protestants who are concerned that the current proposed EU deal represents a loosening of the ties between Northern Ireland and Britain. However, undoubtedly language is important, and I have no objection to other formulations which contain the same essential content. The urgent need to progress this discussion and formulate our programme clearly is underlined by the current political crisis on Brexit in Britain and the need for us to comment on the proposed exit agreement. Negative demands are not enough
  7. Some comrades have argued that on  the issue  of Brexit,  we should  avoid raising  positive demands and  instead focus  on raising  negative  demands  about  what  we  are  against. CM in his ‘Notes on Brexit’ (8 October 2018) circulated to the NEC argues: “Deliberately not putting forward positive demands, or advocating a particular arrangement post-Brexit, has been correct,  and  broadly  remains  correct  however.  There  are  issues on which it is not for the workers movement to come forward with solutions which address the concerns of the ruling class, and in the main this is one such.”
  8. T his strikes me  as  an  attempt  to  make  a  virtue  of a perceived necessity. It’s a program of wait and see – not a programme  of  revolutionary  intervention  and  defence  of  our class.
  9. All of the crises that working class people face are caused by decisions of the capitalist class. The famine approaching workers in  Russia  in  October  1917  was caused  by the sabotage of the capitalists and the inaction of the Provisional  Government.  Russian participation  in World War  I was the responsibility of the Tsar and the world’s imperialist powers, together with the Provisional Government which continued it. However, Lenin did not simply say that it was up to the capitalists or the Provisional Government to resolve the famine crisis or end the war. In ‘The Impending Catastrophe and How To Combat It’, he outlined the measures necessary to deal with the famine and to end the war and the need for a revolutionary government to implement them.
  10. ment should do,  we  need  to  develop  our  programme  on  what we  argue  that  a  left  government  with  a  socialist  programme in Ireland would do. Again, we have to raise demands to bring out the real nature of the European Union and point to why a socialist government and socialist Europe is necessary to address the legitimate fears that workers have. I think the starting point of this would be to say that a left government  in  Ireland  would  insist  that  negotiations  be  re-opened with Britain and oppose any insertion of neo-liberal rules into the exit agreement in order to have market access and avoid a hardening of borders. It would also insist that all negotiations are carried out in public, with no secret diplomacy and all negotiating papers published. This would have to be linked to a  European-wide  campaign  to mobilise mass opposition of workers to the policies of the European Commission and to raise the need for a socialist Europe. Conclusion
  11. Internal debate is a natural and inevitable part of the life of a revolutionary party. In fact it is an important part of how the party grows and how it develops cadre in the model of how Trotsky described a Bolshevik as “a person who in each case and on each question forges a firm opinion of his own and defends it courageously and independently, not only against his enemies, but inside  his  own party.” As  I said  at  the NC in October, if all sides conduct the debate that is beginning in a political, measured and responsible way, the party will grow and learn as a result.
  12. T he issues outlined in this document are not obscure differences about historical or theoretical questions. They relate directly to the burning task facing us – how do we build the revolutionary party quantitatively and qualitatively today.

The united front method and transitional method were born of revolutionaries grappling with the exact same task 100 years ago. Understanding these methods and incorporating them in a systematic and theorised way into our work will be crucial to seizing the opportunities in the coming years.


OTHER DOCUMENTS OF The International Discussion in CWI at the Links Below

Jim Monaghan Here they are. A deepening crisis in the international organisation around Peter Taaffe’s Socialist Party. Taaffe’s supporters formed a minority at its most recent IEC, describing as ‘Mandelite’ a current including leaders of the sections in Ireland, Greece and Belgium. The English and Welsh IEC members have declared an opposition faction. It has been given parity on a commission organising a world congress next year of the Committee for a Workers’ International.
Peter Taaffe’s criticism of the comrades’ role in Ireland is at
A members’ bulletin gathering together other documents can be found at http://ow.ly/OmUU30nJIwj


 A brief contribution on some political issues mentioned by Paul Murphy TD

Document From  Laura Fitzgerald (Belfast), Stephen Boyd, Kevin McLoughlin, Joe Higgins – 10 October 2018

(All except Joe Higgins are employees of the Socialist Party. Stephen Boyd and Laura Fitzgerald are Belfast based, Kevin McLoughlin is Dublin based. Joe Higgins is a former TD and MEP)

Sinn Fein

1. Without in any way rushing to judgement regarding political positions, we welcome that there is now a discussion unfolding on important and interesting political issues, some of which PM pinpointed in his document. We think any discussion will clarify issues and we are hopeful that there will be broad agreement on the questions.

2. Paul Murphy describes Sinn Fein as “a nationalist, pro-capitalist party, which seeks to manage capitalism in Ireland,”. We agree with this but also feel it is an incomplete description of Sinn Fein. Of course they are “a nationalist, pro-capitalist party”, the reality is that Sinn Fein are a bourgeois nationalist party – but of fundamental importance to any political description of Sinn Fein is that they are a sectarian party. A party which  currently  plays a  sectarian role  in the North – whose armed wing in the past waged an individual terrorist armed struggle,  that  was overtly  sectarian and  at  times  directly  targeted working class Protestants. 3. T his is important, as is the fact that we need to view and discuss Sinn Fein in a combined way, i.e. we need to take account of both the situation with them, North and South, otherwise  we  are  in  danger  of  a  major  flaw  in  our  approach to Sinn Fein. 4. T his  is  an  important  juncture  for  the  national  question in Ireland. Brexit, the issue of a border poll, historic demographic changes, the potential break-up of the UK and the prospect of Sinn Fein being in government in the South, have already had an impact on the objective situation and all have the potential to further significantly alter the objective situations  North  and South,  including  in  a  negative  and  challenging way. 5. T he approach that the party adopts towards Sinn Fein in the South cannot be divorced from these events, nor can  it  be  divorced  from  the  potential  impact on  the  party  in the North. 6. Key  to  the  characterisation  of  Sinn  Fein  is  their  relationship  to  the  working  class.  Among  Catholics  in  the  North, and among some sections of the working class in the South, Sinn Fein, are seen as ant establishment, though clearly that is diminishing because of their shift  to the  right.  Sinn Fein  are not comparable to the ex-social democratic traditional parties of the working class, neither are they comparable to the newer formations and parties that arose or grew during the last ten years, such as Die Linke, Syriza, PSol or Podemos. SF and the working class 7. In the North they are of course only based in one section of society and in the South they have certain support among  sections of  the working class  but  there are  also  major questions about Sinn Fein many many working class people. T his would include substantial layers of class conscious workers who regard Sinn Fein with suspicion and sometimes with hostility. This is because of the role of the Provisional IRA during the Troubles and because they see the sectarian role that Sinn Fein play in the North, but also because they have openly embraced the constraints of neo-liberalism in recent years. 8. T he doubts that many working class people have regarding Sinn Fein are shown by previous opinion polls when at one point in 2015, according to a Millward Brown Poll, Sinn Fein had the support of 26% of the electorate. Yet, in part because of the role of the party in exposing Sinn Fein’s rightward  shift,  but  also  because  of  the  fragility of  it’s  working  class 13support  base  that  simply  were  not  convinced  by  it’s  embracing  of  the  “fiscal  space”,  they  only  received14.65%  of  the  vote in the 2016 general election. This was only a 4.65% increase from the 2011 general election. A major underachievement by a party that at one point believed they could be the main party in a coalition government post the general election. DSW by-election 9. In  the  South,  because  of  the  opposition to  the  establishment parties and the absence of a broad left and workingclass alternative, Sinn Fein will improve their vote share, potentially substantially. It will be interesting if this is reflected in the ||Presidential Election. However, as they are evolving further to the right as part of their attempt to make themselves acceptable partners in government for the bourgeois parties, the connections they have in some working class communities have been weakened. It’s highly unlikely that a shift left and to struggle is possible, though perhaps Mary Lou may try engage in some rhetoric. 10. T he weakening of its real roots and position in working-class communities was shown by the party’s victory in the2014 Dublin South West by-election which took all of the commentators by surprise. Sinn Féin had performed extremely well in local elections the previous May, winning50.3% of the first preference vote in the Tallaght South and 32% in the Tallaght Central and were widely predicted to win the seat. 11. As PM correctly comments the party “mercilessly” exposed  Sinn  Fein  during  the  by-election  in  relation  to  their conservative approach to the water charges. We did this not by making appeals to Sinn Fein to change their position or to join with us in campaigning to build a mass movement of non-payment, aimed  at their  supporters and voters,  but by actually exposing the contradictions in their propaganda and approach to the struggle to defeat the water charges. We exposed the sharp difference between the rhetoric and the actual reality of Sinn Fein’s position. 12. Here are  some  extracts from  the last  leaflet we distributed in the DSW by-election: “Unfortunately Sinn Fein – Refused to promise to abolish water charges if in government”…“Sinn  Fein  refuse  to  support  non-payment… Refusing to support mass non-payment of Water Charges, and now with Gerry Adams, Mary Lou McDonald and other TDs telling theJournal.ie on Wednesday that they will pay the charge, Sinn Fein’s opposition to this double tax sounds very hollow. Unjust taxes  and charges should not be paid. That’s always  been  the  most  effective  way  to  undermine  and  defeat them. 13. ”Can they be trusted on Water Charges? …The signal Sinn Fein is giving is that people should pay this Water Charge, until they are in government! That is in complete contrast with the best instincts of the majority in working class communities who either can’t pay or won’t pay. Their weak approach on Water Charges raises the question as to whether their promise to abolish them if elected will be kept. The election of Paul Murphy would make it clear to Sinn Fein that a weak position on Water Charges  in the future will  not be tolerated.” United Front tactics 14. United  Front  tactics  is  a  reference  to  tactics  that  the Comintern and revolutionary parties adopted in general towards the mass organisations of the working class in the1920s and 1930s. It involved proposing a united front with those organisations on key issues or struggles – march separately but striking together. The united front was a means for the revolutionaries to help mobilise the masses in struggle and to win over  the  best  of  the  ranks  of  the  workers  organisations  to  the revolutionary movement when their leaders were exposed as being unwilling or incapable of fighting capitalism. 15. When the word “elements” is added to united front, there is a danger that it is a shorthand that can confuse and miseducate comrades, rather than clarify. We should be hesitant about using  labels  if they  don’t accurately convey  what we mean. We don’t have the time to go into more generally, but will use the example DSW By-Election just given to try to illustrate the difficulty with the term. 16. T here was no question of a unified approach with Sinn Fein on the water charges. There was obviously an attempt by us to win over people who voted for them by using the water  charges and austerity  issues, but there is a  major difference in the content and tone of our campaign. 17. Our focus wasn’t Sinn Fein. There was no agreement or  shared goal, even in  words, between  us and  Sinn  Fein or  its members on the water charges. Behind a tokenistic opposition to water charges, Sinn Fein in reality said people might as well pay the charge because a struggle can’t win. They were pointing away from the struggle that was necessary and we didn’t in any way orient to Sinn Fein but to the working class communities. The bottom line we established with the people was the need to fight water charges as the current sharp point of austerity, and electorally that meant voting for us, not Sinn Fein. 18. We had limited time to affect a shift in voting intentions if we were to achieve a victory for ourselves and the new movement. That didn’t allow time for a period of united front or common struggle with Sinn Fein, even if, in words, one had been possible. The clarity and sharpness of our criticisms helped bring subterranean doubts about Sinn Fein and their 14role to the surface at a time of huge anger against the charges. Our message was a vote for Sinn Fein will not defeat the water charges, a vote for Paul Murphy could, but would at least strengthen the struggle to do so. United front or elements of the united front, does not really describe our direct but skilful assault on Sinn Fein. 19. T here have been differences in the way different comrades have approached the question of Sinn Fein. Some comrades have been unnecessarily hesitant in making direct criticisms but instead make implied or indirect criticisms. For example, focusing criticism on Sinn Fein for their openness at bringing Fianna Fail or Fine Gael back into power, rather than also showing how what Sinn Fein are putting forward will not at all deal with the key issues facing people. Or demonstrating that they are not using their huge resources to fight on the issues. This is a missed opportunity to raise the level of people by  alluding  to  their  real  and  actual  experience  of  Sin  Fein,  a reality that Sinn Fein are trying to camouflage. 20. A quick quote from our perspective document at this years  conference also illustrates the point: “Some genuine people have hopes or illusions in Sinn Fein and clearly we want to influence them. Our criticisms shouldn’t be crude. T here isn’t a problem placing demands on them in certain circumstances,  but  not  in  a  way  that  re-enforces  illusions.  Neither do we want to leave it as an open question as to what they will do. If taking an approach of placing demands, some commentary is necessary that raises some doubt on what they will do, for example backed up by reference to weak positions they have already adopted.” 2016 general election 21. In the 2016 general election we continued this approach towards Sinn Fein – aiming to skillfully exposing them in the eyes of their supporters and potential voters. In a pre-election newsletter (distributed December 2015, two months before the election) in Dublin Bay North for MOB we wrote: “We have major doubts about Sinn Fein because: It won’t advocate a mass boycott of water charges.It accepts that the Troika’s financial rules have to be respected, which means it won’t support the public investmentneeded to tackle the health and housing crises. They are imposing major cuts to jobs and services in the North. Sinn Fein TDs including Gerry Adams have repeatedly indicated they are open to go into government with Fianna Fáil and Labour.” 22. From  the  same  newsletter  we  wrote  in  relation  to  the formation of a government: “AAA in the next Dáil… If it isn’t possible to get agreement that radical measures are necessary and  we  cannot  enter  government,  AAA  TDs  will  adopt  the following approach to the next government: If there’s a choice between  a  government  involving  a  combination  of  Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour versus another made up of other parties and Independents, the AAA will use our TDs’ votes to allow the new alternative government to be formed. 23. “AAA TDs will help mobilise movements to pressurise  the  government  to deliver  on issues;  we  will  only support measures that benefit working class people and oppose ones that don’t. At the same time, the AAA would go all out to build a new mass movement, with the aim of achieving a genuine Left government as soon as possible. ” 24. T he origins of this nuanced and principled position in relation to the formation of a government stem from our2015 conference document and discussion, which comrades should re-read as part of this discussion. Importantly in the document and during the conference discussion we placed an important rider on whether we would allow an “alternative government” that included Sinn Fein to come to power and that was in relation to the potential impact this would have on the North if this meant that Sinn Fein would use it’s election to call a border poll, and we agreed that the situation would have to be looked at concretely at that time. Sinn Fein today 25. Sinn Fein’s 2017 Ard Fheis passed a motion that paves the way for Sinn Fein to enter a coalition government with the main establishment parties. Sinn Fein in government in the South will have a major destabilising impact on Northern Ireland. As part of the Southern government they will become de facto guarantors of the Belfast Agreement and therefore  will  have  a  dual  role  as  part  of  the  process  within  the North and as one of the governments involved in upholding the so-called peace process. 26. Sinn Fein in government in the South may well coincide  with  a new  economic  crisis  and as  part  of  a  capitalist government “forced” by the diktats of the markets and the EU they will implement austerity and attacks on working class people. In such a situation will Sinn Fein use nationalism and sectarianism as a distraction from these attacks? Of course they will, it is inherent in their method and approach. Will such a government push for a border poll? Sinn Fein has already  said that  the  holding  of  a  border  poll  will  be  a central plank of their programme for government, and this would have the potential to push the North back towards sectarian conflict. 27. It is possible that in the next period support for Sinn Fein can increase and that some working class people will place their hopes in Sinn Fein being in government after the next general election as an alternative to the FG minority government supported and propped up by Fianna Fail. We need to keep an eye to nature of the support that Sinn Fein develops 15ing of their living standards and rights. in  the  next  period  and  this  will  be  a  factor  in  how  exactly  we take them up during the forthcoming elections. An analysis of the different views that exist amongst sections of the working class towards Sinn Fein must continue to play an important part  in  how  we  skilfully  take  them  up  in  our  material  and  public interventions. 28. T he resolution of the national question in Ireland can  only come  about through a  united  struggle  of the  working class, Catholic and Protestant, North and South, to overthrow capitalism and the creation of a socialist society. Therefore we must continue to adeptly expose Sinn Fein before the working class both North and South and weigh up in a rounded out way all the potential implications that can flow from our approach to this sectarian party. Socialist programme today 29. An important question has come up as to how we put forward our programme. These are just a few comments to  assist  in  a  discussion on  this  issue, which  seeks  to  outline the  method by  which  we  present  our  programme  today  and apply a transitional method. 30. T he last decade has seen a profound crisis of capitalism in Ireland and globally, followed by a neo-liberal recovery that has only helped to further accentuate massive economic and wealth inequality. This is combined with a radicalisation around issues of oppression such as those faced by women, people of colour, LGBTQ and oppressed groups in society ref lecting a desire for full equality. 31. We have seen how the material realities faced by the majority in society has resulted in explosive struggles here in Ireland in recent years, most notably the successful struggle against water charges and the historic repeal referendum. It has also resulted in an increased openness to a radical socialist alternative. Our party played a central  role  in each of these battles and in doing so we sought to impact on the consciousness of working-class, women, young and LGBTQ people about the need for fundamental anti-capitalist and socialist change. 32. We understand that fighting on specific issues will not, in and of itself, produce this understanding. How we apply a transitional method today is therefore critical. Such a method begins by identifying key issues that are essential for working-class people and then  systematically and thoroughly exposes why capitalism is fundamentally incapable of resolving these issues and of meeting the needs and upholding the rights of the majority in society. While we fight on the key issues affecting workers, women and young people, we have also sought to explain how this system, particularly in the epoch of neo-liberalism, is based on the undermining and erodAnti-capitalism 33. What differentiates our socialism from that espoused by left figures such as Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, is that  it  is  rooted  in  a  consistent  and  thoroughly  anti-capitalist and revolutionary position. We have to be able to demonstrate that there is a fundamental conflict between a capitalist economy  driven by  the ruthless  drive for  profit and  meeting  the needs of working-class people. Fundamentally, we have to be able to convince them of the necessity to struggle to challenge the private ownership of the wealth and resources of society, and that only on this basis can the horrors created capitalism be  ended. Such an approach contrasts  starkly  to the  idea  of a reformed capitalism,  or a so-called “mixed economy”  put forward by Sanders and Corbyn. 34. By convincing people of an anti-capitalist position – using specific demands that connect with key aspects of peoples’ lives and struggles, but which also strike at the very heart of the way capitalism operates – we can in turn convince workers and young people of the need to struggle for a left and socialist government, based upon a break with capitalism and the democratic public ownership and planning of the key sectors of the economy. This was the method adopted by the Bolsheviks in the Russian Revolution. They argued that the demands of “peace, bread and land” could only be met by breaking with capitalism and were necessarily linked to the revolutionary demand for “all power to the soviets”. 35. T he housing crisis is a brilliant and very concrete way  of  helping  us  to  get  across  the  need  to  challenge  capitalist policies and the system itself. We explain why the capitalist market, run in the interests of developers and landlords, is incapable of providing affordable housing and that this market must be challenged. This flows  from the ruthless profiteering that has seen the price of land, homes and rents skyrocket, while at the same time the neo-liberal policies of the capitalist establishment have ensured that precious public housing has not been built. Housing 36. As well as raising demands around the question of rent controls and the building of public housing on public land, we have also raised the necessity for the democratic public  ownership  of  the  construction  industry  and  banking system. We try and demonstrate that on the basis of taking the resources  out  of  the  private  hands  of  those  who  profit  from the crisis, affordable homes can be built for all. 37. In the last month and half we have intervened into the occupations and demonstrations surrounding the Take 16Back  the  City  movement.  In  intervening  into  these  struggles we can take up questions like the necessity of rent controls, the  seizure  of  empty  property  held  by  developers,  the  building of public housing and flowing from this point, the need to challenge the capitalist market in order to fundamentally solve the housing crisis. There can exist a real openness to an anti-capitalist position amongst those young people that have been activated by this issue, and by adopting a transitional approach we can help them draw revolutionary socialist conclusions about society. 38. In the  struggle for abortion rights we  have also adopted  a  transitional  method  in  our  agitation  and  propaganda. We pointed out how the backward and cowardly parties  of the capitalist establishment, with  connections  to the Catholic Church, had maintained the existence of the eight amendment and the denial of bodily for women and pregnant people, despite the desperate need for change. 39. We  weren’t  passive,  but  consistently  demonstrated that  only  a  mass  movement  and  struggle  by  young  people, women and working-class people generally could bring about repeal and bodily autonomy. This was an argument not accepted by  others on the left  and most sections of the prochoice movement. From our programme flows our methods of struggle, which we put into action via the initiatives around the abortion pill, which were critical to winning the historic victory of 12-weeks on request, because our actions changed the facts on the ground. Abortion rights and church/state 40. In our material we consistently pointed out the impact that policing women’s bodies and the denial of abortion rights was having on the lives of many. We showed that this was a by-product of the oppression of women which is inherent in capitalism and specifically the backward nature of Irish capitalism, which was historically connected to the Catholic Church. On this question, and on the question of women’s oppression generally, we have skilfully linked them to the necessity for anti-capitalist and socialist change, highlighting the reality of profound economic exploitation as well as oppression under this system. In ROSA’s 15-point programme, that we helped develop, it calls for: “Build a socialist-feminist movement to challenge the oppression and inequality that stems from the private ownership of wealth. For a mass working-class movement that unites workers, women, LGBTQ people  and  all  oppressed  to challenge  capitalism’s  rule  of  the 1% super-rich and the destruction of the environment.” 41. Another  important  and  related  question  is  that  of separating church and state in the South. We have sought to expose how there can be no trust in the representatives of the capitalist class to carry this out. They have time and again proven unwilling and incapable of fundamentally challenging and rooting the Church out of the state. 42. T hey lag behind progressive and secular aspiration for the separation of church and state. They are only willing to  introduce  piecemeal  and  incremental  change  on  these  issue and they simply can’t be relied upon to end church control of the  health and  education  systems.  An  example  of  their  cravenness towards the church was seen in the last week. The government capitulated to lobbying from the church against a proposal for the Department of Education that give students at secondary levels an option to take alternative subjects to Religious  Tuition.  They  have  also  blocked  the  Sex  Education Bill brought forward by Solidarity. 43. We have put forward that the struggle for ending church control, must be linked to challenging the rule of the parties of Irish capitalism and for a left socialist government that will break with their system. Brexit 44. T he question of Brexit is clearly a complex one that needs more discussion, particularly in terms of how it relates to the national question in Ireland and the question of a potential hardening of the border. There  are number of fears around this question, such as the economic fallout that may come from Brexit as well. It is critical that our programme on this starts by addressing the fears of working-class people of the potential of this fallout. We have to explain the actions that  workers and  their organisations can take  in order  to  prevent  any  potential  erosion  of  their  living  standards  as  a  result of Brexit. This is why we have put forward the demand that the trade union movement should organise a conference of workers’ representatives from Britain and Ireland to discuss what action can be taken. 45. We argue that there should be coordinated action to ensure that there are no cuts to pay, attacks on conditions or shedding of jobs flowing from Brexit, and whatever industrial action that is necessary, is taken to ensure that the rights and conditions  of  workers  are  not  put  on  the  capitalist  chopping block.  We  argue  that  it  is  the  profits  of  capitalism  that  should be hit, not workers’ rights and conditions and that any company threatening redundancy should be taken into democratic public ownership. 46. A discussion on the question of how we take up our programme is a positive and important one. The realities of capitalism in Ireland can lead to further explosive struggles of working-class people, which we will be  intervening into.  Our ability  to adopt  a transitional  method  in taking up  the vital issues affecting different sections of the working class will be critical to building our forces in the months and years ahead. 1747. Internal life and democracy in the party this arena of work it will have a transformative effect in all the arenas of the Party work and structures. PM has raised some vital issues for discussion relating to the internal life of the Party and we look forward to a full discussion on these issues. Democracy within the revolutionary party is absolutely crucial, and it’s only made possible with the existence of a strong, independent, politically developing cadre inside the Party at all levels. 48. T here are concrete challenges to the development of cadre – one of the biggest issues we have faced over many years is the impact of mass work. Because of the immediacy of mass campaigns, electoral challenges etc., comrades’ attention is often directed away from the crucial, patient political work that is essential for Party building inside the branches. 49. Particularly since the repeal movement, we’ve seen hugely increased opportunities to build amongst radicalised youth and workers. However, even though we meet large amounts of young working-class people who are already open to left and socialist ideas, and often are very positively predisposed to our work and even to joining the party, we experience continued complications in consolidation and cadre development and in consistently activating new members. In many ways this is inevitable at this current conjuncture, without the edifying backdrop of an awakened, conscious, active and organised workers’ movement that can be an ‘anchor’ for the political development of comrades in the Party as well as for the development of class consciousness broadly. 50. We  find  that  it  takes  a  huge  amount  of  patient,  political work to try to overcome barriers that new members face to their  political development and activity, including to really convince them of our perspective for revolutionary struggle and of the power of the working class. In this way, in order to reap the potential that exists to build that is in fact deeper than it has been for many years, we have to be extremely sharp politically  and  focused  and  tenacious  in  assisting  the  integration,  political  consolidation and  development  of new members. Developing a cadre 51. Building  a strong  cadre inside  the  Party takes  time and a huge amount of conscious effort. Part of this process is aiding comrades to develop politically such that they feel independently confident to answer the many questions that bourgeois society can throw at them in their  daily lives.  In this context, we need a thorough theoretical and political education of comrades, one that is at once rooted in these questions that comrades inevitably will have, and one that connects concretely  with  questions  of  perspectives  and  our  work  and role today. Within this, prioritising youth work and the development  of  young  comrades  is  key  –  if  we  are  successful  in 52. On  the  points  raised  about  fulltimers  in  the  South – of course we must be cognisant of the real danger of ‘substitutionalism’.Generally, the role and key remit of fulltimers in branches is to work with and aid the development of other comrades, both in terms of their political development and to generally develop the role that they play. As opposed to controlling the situation, or as is implied, curbing other comrades, the central task of fulltimers in areas central task is to facilitate  the  development  of  the  Party  and  all  comrades  in  the fullest way possible. 53. As a broad aspiration, no one would disagree with the idea of Branch Secretaries generally not being fulltimers, however, from our experience, it’s not possible to be as prescriptive as PM’s proposal is, precisely because party building, consolidation, cadre development etc. is a complicated and sometimes challenging process and task. 54. In  fact,  after  the  2011  General  Election  in  the  South, the REC made a decision to move away from fulltimers who were  area  organisers  /  Secretaries  in  our  key  electoral  areas and generally. This process proved more complicated than we anticipated, precisely because the comrades who were Secretaries found the work very taxing. This mainly related to the realities of the impact of mass work on the branch building tasks.  At  a  BC  School  in  2012,  during  the  household  tax  campaign, when discussing with the Secretaries it was clear that every single one of them was playing a central organising role in their local broad campaign, rather than prioritising the key internal questions central to party building and political development. 55. We have not had any policy that Secretaries should be fulltimers, not at all, but we did move in recent years to appoint a Party fulltimer to the key electoral areas precisely as an  aid  to  the  work  and  to  absolutely  ensure  that  Party  building tasks were not subsumed by mass work pressures. 56. In the coming weeks and months it’s clear that there is a real potential, not only for openings for important workplace interventions and industrial strife including amongst young  workers  eg  as  illustrated  in  the  hospitality  sector  in the North, but also flowing from repeal and the beginnings of a movement on housing developing, that social movements led by young people can reflect themselves in city centres and suburban areas in new and exciting ways. It’s vital in this context that we discuss how the Branch Committees, the fulltime apparatus etc. all work to facilitate the maximum development of all comrades to ensure that we can most effectively intervene and build from this developing political situation.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–see also on this Blog

Brief History of The Restoration of Capitalism in Eastern Europe and In Soviet Union. What are the Lessons for Socialists??  https://wp.me/pKzXa-17M

When I was younger, social democrats and communist party members used to use this joke as a put down:”There are 37 kinds of Trotskyist world wide. It wasn’t that much of an exaggeration. I met most of them over the last 50 years. There were nearer to 17 tendencies. Now there is a new joke. Since the fall of the Soviet union and the turn of the Chinese leadership to capitalism, there are 57 kinds of communist part stretching from “third period” ultraleftism to right wing social democracy There are a number of “communist” parties in some countries. Unfortunately it is not a joke. Trade union leaderships and social democracy worldwide through their capitulations to extreme capitalism, created a political vacancy among the poor. The left ,”communist” and “trotskyist”, due to the extreme dislocation, rivalry and competitive recruiting(the lot nearest to you are the biggest enemy) were unable to fill the void. Right wing populists (eg Trump, Le Pen, Farage) are filling the void instead just as fascism did in the thirties followng the failure of the German left. If we all don’t come to our senses we will soon have a new Hitler in some large capitalist country-but this time he will have nuclear weapons and massively effective chemical weapons also !!!

A number of people have been saying in discussions on facebook that we have fascism already in Ireland. I don’t agree. We have a very right-wing capitalist ruling parties in the 26-counties. I understand the point that is being made. But we must be careful. What has been happening,particularly in housing and health, since the crash is a form of capitalist savagery visited on large numbers of people. But however capitulationist the Irish trade union leaders are, we still have non-state trade unions and elections in this and many other countries. True, corrupt leaders have compromised the independence of Irish trade unions. However, if fascism had already arrived these things would have been abolished. and there would be widespread jailings and executions of trade union activists and ethnic minorities as well as wars and massacres. THE MAIN POINT IS THAT there is still time and opportunity to stop this happening. The recapture of trade unions by the workers themselves is a key task-The capitulators in leaderships mus be removed and the left must learn to co-operate in key tasks IN GOOD FAITH-not just as a recruiting manoeuvre. Remember, even in Ireland, some of the poorest workers were mobilised by the Blueshirts in support of Irish Fascism. This happened on a large scale on Hitler and Mussolini’s way to power. Now in France, with its radical democratic and left-wing tradition, MILLIONS of French workers who previously voted for the French Communist Party and the French Socialist Party (which was the ruling party a short few years ago) are now voting for Marine Le Pen-a fascist! We must use the time and political space we still have to ward off catastrophy before it is too late!

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  1. August 12, 2018 at 8:44 am

    Reblogged this on seachranaidhe1.

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