Posts By Comrade Zhenka

Breaking a Cycle

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This post was originally published on the 28th of October on the comradezhenka blog.

Socialists, Protests and Strategy

The last few years has seen a lot of frenetic political activity, there have been countless protests and mobilisations without much success in many of them. There were of course some obvious exceptions, the early CAHWT demos and more recently the Coillte protests The unions had organised some very big demos but they’re now in the distant past, and the recent ones are more a case of being seen to do something, rather than actually doing something. It seems like there has been an endless round of activism and it appears people are simply moving from one protest to the next. Every new cut in services is met with a protest, every attack on the working class is met with a demo. There are a lot of very good people putting a lot of effort into these activities. Unfortunately it seems as if we’re simply chasing our tails and one of the results of this is that the numbers attending have, in general, been declining. The lower numbers and the lack of substance to back up the demos ultimately leads to demoralisation and a downward spiral.

If you ask someone outside of the left what the left does, the answer is usually ‘protest’. Is that all we stand for? Of course not. We do however need to move beyond the cycle of tactical actions. Rather than objecting to every single manifestation of ‘austerity’ we need to develop an overall strategy for tackling capitalism. This means we need to break the current cycle of protests. We need to take a step back from the current level of activity and analyse what has worked over the last few years and what hasn’t. It is important we don’t get bogged down in the usual protest-recruit cycle that other groups thrive on, but ultimately leads to a dead end as there’s little substance to back it up. We need now to develop that substance. This is naturally going to be a long process involving as wide a range of voices on the left as possible. It certainly won’t be glamorous and will most likely be boring, but it’s vital for our long-term interests that we break this cycle and get back to some serious thinking.

This is not to say there should be no protests, but that we should pick and choose our battlegrounds more carefully. There are a myriad of cuts and attacks on the working class happening now under the guise of austerity, and we shouldn’t be looking to protest every last one of them. Simply put we don’t have the numbers to tackle each one of them individually. We have been trying to do this, and the result of it is diminished numbers at these demos. In my opinion this has the net effect of making the left appear weaker than it actually is. I know this won’t be a popular idea, but the left is thin on the ground and further dividing our strength by the sheer volume of (and sometimes competing) demos doesn’t serve us well. We simply don’t have the strength of numbers required to attend every protest, and in truth everyone knows the low turnouts make us look weak. We need to strategise our demonstrations, we need to decide what our priorities are and then take each invite to a protest and decide whether it fits into our strategic plan.

This will necessarily involve making some tough decisions. Nobody wants to turn away from any members of the working class that are under attack. But it must be done. We have to find other ways of supporting those groups, because truth be told having 300 people turn up to protest a cut in, for instance, the education budget does that group no favours at all. Ultimately it shows that those protesting aren’t strong enough to defeat the cuts, and makes them ripe for further cuts in future. I know some people will say that having 300 there is better than having no one, but really it isn’t, it amounts to the same thing: There is not enough force there to prevent the cuts.

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Independent Socialists and the Local Elections

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The following is from a new blog, Comrade Zhenka and was originally posted there yesterday, the 17th of September.

For independent socialists in the run-up to the local elections there are a couple of different options available to us to tie in with other groups. There are the remnants of the ULA still looking for a home, there was some movement towards developing a party under the banner United Left, with Clare Daly & Joan Collins and a couple of Councillors. There was some discussion around the rudiments of a programme some months ago. Unfortunately this seems to be still born, as there doesn’t seem to have been much progress over the last couple of months. Considering the lack of apparent movement (there may be something happening behind the scenes I’m not aware of but it’s doubtful), there doesn’t seem to be much drive behind the organisation.

The other development seems to be more interesting and probably has the most potential at this stage. There are a number of caveats attached to this potential however. For instance because it was started by academics there is naturally an academic-heavy make up to the people who’ve been attending the Left Forum meetings. That being said, as it attracts more towards it, we should see the base broadening out to include a wider variety of people. We are already beginning to see this happening, and should these difficulties be overcome, then the Left Forum could be a successful endeavour.

The first thing that should be noted is that LF is not a party, and it’s not likely to become a party before the local elections. In fact it’s not even certain what LF will be, if anything. There needs to be a serious ongoing debate about the nature of the Forum, and it’s vitally important that this isn’t rushed into just to have a slate of candidates for the local elections next year. This would in the long term be counter-productive to the best interests of developing the left in Ireland. There will of course be people associated with LF contesting the locals (there will also be other slates of non-LF candidates), but not under a Left Forum banner.

It’s clear there are going to be a lot of left-wing candidates standing in the local elections. Some of those will be standing under the SP’s newly formed Anti-Austerity Alliance (this is largely made up of SP members and those members of CAHWT who stuck with the SP line), others will stand as PBPA which launched a recruitment drive some months ago. Others however will be standing as independents. It is these independents that need to be brought together under a banner after the elections. There is neither the time nor the funding needed to unite them before the locals and to field them as candidates.

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