This response is written by Brendan Young and Eddie Conlon
People Before Profit have released a public letter seeking endorsement from individuals and organisations for a ‘coherent left alliance’ which would include “[PBP], the Anti-Austerity Alliance and many independent socialists and community and trade union activists.” The focus of this is the coming general election. We are in favor of a slate of anti-austerity candidates standing in the election – based on the water charge campaign and clear opposition to coalition with pro-austerity parties. While we favor this, we are opposed to the method of the current PBPA proposal. But we are in favour of urgent discussion between the SP and SWP on a left slate and would urge the SP to stop stalling on the matter.
While we agree with much of the politics set out in the PBPA proposal, individuals and organizations are being asked to sign up to a proposal for a new left alliance – which is undefined. An alliance is, by definition, a formal organization involving groups and perhaps individuals. We are a couple of years after the breakup of the ULA and relations between groups and individuals on the left are probably worse now than before 2011. Proposing that a new alliance be set up has no basis in the current relations on the left.
There is now however, an improved basis for a left slate in that PBPA is now openly campaigning for non-payment of the water charge. Calling for a boycott is essential to winning this battle and is the basis for common political work. We think that PBPA should now energetically build the non-payment demo on April 18; and that PBPA should actively get involved in the Non-Payment Network or agree to a coordinated approach to non-payment activities. This does not involve splitting from R2W. The groups in North Kildare actively build R2W events – but have publicly argued for non-payment from the outset.
But to propose a new alliance by publicly soliciting support is to attempt to apply pressure so that those who do not agree with participating in a new alliance at this point in time are seen as divisive. The PBPA proposal, as it stands, is likely to fail. The last thing we need now is another failed initiative for left unity leading to hostile recrimination and the demoralisation of those who actively want to see the radical left uniting.
A more considered approach is needed which ensures that those left forces with significant social weight, and in the main that means PBP and the AAA, are committed in principle before the project is publicly launched. That’s not to argue that these are the only forces that should be involved. Indeed the success of any new project will be determined by the extent to which it engages with those who have become active and organised against the water charges.
The focus now should be on building a slate of candidates to run in the general election. A slate would be based upon rejection of coalition with the Troika parties and the championing of non-payment as essential points; repudiation of debt, taxes on wealth, a public works program and repeal of the 8th Amendment would also be needed. How to deal with the North should be parked for ongoing discussion, as there are known differences on it and the more urgent need is to put a slate in place for the elections in the South.
Ideally a common name under which candidates could stand would eliminate the political confusion of participation in a ‘technical group’ if they were elected. But a slate is a looser arrangement than a formal alliance. It would allow for joint campaigning and the establishment of trust – based on which a more formal organization of the existing groups and new local groups that formed around new anti-austerity candidates could coalesce in the future.
Championing non-payment is essential if a left slate is to engage the actually existing movement: why would water campaigners support a left slate that does not call for non-payment when they could support a politically similar but better organised project called SF? Calling for non-payment also demonstrates a commitment to mass action / organization, rather than parliamentarism, as the means to begin real social change.
Key to a discussion would be agreement between the SP, SWP and others that a slate is desirable and that steps should be taken to make it happen. We think there is little point in holding a meeting involving smaller groups and individuals if one of the bigger groups is going to withdraw and the process is reduced to competing slates, which would simply demoralize people.
We agree with the SP that the campaigns against the water charge are the only source of new political groupings / candidates with a significant social base and a commitment to struggle for real change. But we don’t think that new, explicitly political groupings / candidates will emerge spontaneously as the struggle develops.
We think the existing water-charge groupings will remain broadly as they are; but that the establishment of a declared anti-austerity slate and an associated political platform would stimulate water-charge groupings to become more explicitly political and possibly contest the election. A slate would be particularly attractive if it involved all or most of the left: new groups would be more likely to form and to stand candidates if they knew they could be part of a bigger network from which they could draw political support. So it’s time to act now.
A final consideration is that the R2W sponsored conference will take place in May. While we are not clear what the format of this will be, it is imperative that the anti-coalitionist left takes a united approach to it. We believe there should be a statement setting out the reasons why opposition to coalition with the right and support for the current mass struggle should be the basis for any real left project.
So we think other groups and individuals should, if possible, put pressure on the SP and SWP to meet promptly and agree in principle to a left, anti-austerity slate. A broader meeting could then be convened to discuss / agree the political platform and other organizational issues.
Latest posts by Brendan Young (see all)
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- Agree to a Left Slate: Response to PBPA ‘Alliance’ Proposal. - April 8, 2015
- New Hope in Ireland - May 20, 2011
- Building the ULA: Reflections on the Past and Proposals for the Future - January 9, 2011