Time for the Left to find common cause

Posted: March 2, 2015 in Irish Left, Irish Politics, Politics, Sinn Féin, Trade Unions, United Left Alliance

Speaking last November at a Sinn Féin Conference in Clondalkin Gerry Adams called for a ‘realignment of Irish politics’.

He said, ‘Let those on the left who really believe that a government without Fine Gael or Fianna Fail is possible, begin working now together towards that end.’

In the months that followed a broad left alliance of trade unions, community groups, political parties and citizens have marched against austerity.

This mobilisation of hundreds of thousands of people coupled with the rise of anti-austerity parties in Greece and Spain has given birth to a new optimism.

Sensing this change SIPTU President Jack O’Connor in January called for social democrats, left republicans and independent socialists ‘to set aside sectarian divisions and develop a political project aimed at winning the next general election on a common platform.’

The five trade unions at the heart of the Right2Water campaign (Unite, Mandate, CPSU, OPATSI & CWC) issued a separate call for a ‘Platform for Renewal’ setting out the ‘core principles’ that a ‘progressive government will be expected to deliver in the next Dáil.’

On May Day Right2Water are hoping to bring trade unions, individuals, political parties and independents, NGOs, academics, representatives of the not-for-profit sector and community activists to shape this Platform for Renewal.

Never has there been a better time for building common ground between all sections of Irish society who believe in a better, fairer way.

While this new sense of progressive optimism may be intoxicating, the scale of the challenge involved in installing the state’s first left wing government should bring us all back down to earth.

Can we really build that ever elusive left unity?

Divisions between the anti-austerity unions and those supportive of the Government run deep. Will SIPTU be invited to attend the May Day Platform for Renewal dialogue? What position will Congress take, if any?

Likewise relations between the political parties on the left remain in poor shape. Electoral competition and differing strategic approaches to the water charges campaign continue to divide.

In Dublin’s left leaning Councils the SWP/PBP and SP/AAA refuse to participate in progressive alliances.

Joe Higgins has already ruled his party out of any reformist coalition. The position of the SWP is less clear. If these groups couldn’t keep the ULA together can they really play a constructive role in any broader alliance?

What about the left independents? Will they form a progressive alliance or disperse across the less ideologically clear groupings.

And is it possible to have a left wing government without the involvement of the Labour Party and the social-liberal constituency they represent?

Most importantly the broad left have yet to convince a majority of the electorate that we have a clear, viable and implementable programme for social and economy recovery.

The time for slogans has long past. We need to set out a progressive alternative model of social and economic development.

We need to build public support for a strong and courageous state investing in jobs, services and communities.

This means real tax reform to generate the revenues needed for social and economic renewal. Scraping unjust taxes is not enough. Social and economic recovery must be paid for.

This means challenging the fiscal rules that are currently enshrined in our constitution, our laws and those of the EU.

This means finding a real solution to our unsustainable public and household debt, reducing both its scale and cost.

This means crafting a new approach to economic policy that is socially equitable and environmentally sustainable.

This means truly reforming our political institutions and practices, making them more democratic, accountable and transparent.

Crucially it means convincing a majority of the people to support our vision for a better, fairer Ireland. And then facilitating them to remain mobilised and critically engaged with a new left government to ensure that it keeps its promises.

It is time for the Irish left to build common ground. We have a once in a lifetime chance to build a real alternative to the status quo, to be part of a new politics, a new political economy, a new Republic. Let’s not waste that chance.

  1. Brendan Gavaghan says:

    well said, former FG and Labour members will try and go under the sindo banner, AAA only got a leg up off FG and swp were so bad they offended that mad one(sinead) to the point where she wouldnt even be seen near them, Éire go deo a’Chara

  2. The problem is that even when there is a common cause, like anti-austerity and anti-water charges, we can’t even form a consensus on what we aim to achieve, and how we want to achieve it. We’re plagued by petty squabbling as we saw in the lead up to the Dublin Southwest by-election.

    Independents across the spectrum all succeed on the basis that they’re independents with little or no party allegiance and no substantial policies, so they can never fail on that front. But if they are to stand together with parties like Sinn Féin and the Socialists, then how can we be so sure they’ll keep their seats? Coming together into tighter independent groups than previously seen is risk enough for them.

    And how much of trade union rhetoric is really anymore than just that these days?

    If the left hasn’t managed to unite under the anti-austerity banner (we just share a common dislike of austerity) then how can we hope to break down the barriers of our divisions in the near future?

  3. Patrick Fahy says:

    Eoin a chara
    I know the party has published alternative budgets. I still dont think the public are any way near sufficiently aware of how our vision can be achieved, by way of details of the policies capable of delivering it. That is the urgent, and so far unaddressed task facing us in this pre-election year. Time is short.

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