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'Left unity' and Lisbon  - A dismal lesson 

John McAnulty

6 October 2009

When working people enter into a struggle the one thing that cannot be guaranteed is victory. Socialists can use their knowledge of previous struggles to suggest methods of campaigning that have proved successful in the past. More importantly, they can situate the struggle in the ongoing, ever present class struggle so that the participants can gain in their understanding of that struggle and, if successful, will be ready to advance to new victories and, if unsuccessful, will be able to retreat in good order, able to regroup for new battles.

Irish socialist groups cannot be blamed for the victory of the pro-Lisbon forces in Ireland. On every other count they are as guilty as hell. Their way to win was to build a broad, loose alliance that ignored class questions. There was no question of learning from the past. The campaign would be strictly electoral and the only tactic would be to vote no.

There was no question of bringing in the issue of the more general project of European Capital. This would have led to a break with Sinn Fein, who support that project. There was no question of bringing in the issue of jobs and the European guarantees of NAMA. That would have led to conflict with the trade union bosses at a time when the left were busily ignoring their support for Lisbon.

The only organization to offer any left political message was the Socialist Party, and that fell far short of what was promised. On election to the European parliament Joe Higgins had promised to build a socialist campaign. In reality he followed the sectarian history of his organization, joining the distinctly unsocialist broad campaign and presenting his own organization as the socialist campaign.

Any hopes that the left would learn anything from the debacle where dispelled when Kieran Allen of the Socialist Workers Party appeared on a special edition of the Vincent Browne show on RTE. The vote had been lost because the corporate establishment had united. There was establishment press bias, undemocratic intervention by Ryanair and IBEC who provoked a scare about jobs and brought in the issue of Europe in general instead of sticking to the details of the treaty. The main issue to arise from the campaign was the need for a party to represent the 30% who had voted no.

So we lost because the bosses united against us. In that case socialism is doomed - when will the conditions arise when they don't unite against us? The bosses made a political case around jobs and the economy - a killer blow when our strategy was to avoid politics!

Allen's final comment gives the game away -that we need a party to represent the 30% who said no. There is no doubt that we desperately need a working class party in Ireland. There is no doubt but that the nucleus of that party is to be found in the people who said no. The task of Socialists is to separate out those who voted for their class from the ex-republicans and Catholic right-wingers also in that vote.

As long as Kieran Allen and other leftists pursue the apolitical opportunist and electoralist numbers game they will be an obstacle to a new party of the working class rather than facilitators of it.


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