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The Left and the European election 

John McAnulty

28 May 2009

Despite the massive crisis facing capitalism socialism hardly measures on the radar in the coming election. Northern politics have moved so far to the right that there is no left candidate. In the Southern state a handful of people are standing for local government, largely on parish pump issues. Even by their own measures if this policy were successful it would be 2060 before the left became a force to be reckoned with. 

Joe Higgins of the Socialist party is standing as tribune of the working class in the European poll, having done nothing to produce a common program or a common organization that  would justify the claims or could begin the task of mobilizing the class.

Yet the left, for all its insignificant role, remains of importance. A new working class movement unable to draw upon the wide network of activists and former activists already embedded in Irish society would be severely handicapped.

The problem is that the socialist organizations are wedded to a dishonest and opportunist policy which they keep returning to despite constant failure. This policy is called socialist unity but is actually a policy from the past called popular frontism. 

In a popular front the aim is to join together the widest possible alliance. Because unity comes before policy, the front always aims to incorporate social layers who do not support independent action by the working class. In these circumstances unity requires kowtowing to the right and the only outcome is that the socialist movement moves more and more to the right, becomes more and more immersed in electoralism and less and less able to respond when workers do take any kind of action.

The Lisbon poll was a perfect example of this strategy in practice. Trade union collaboration was ignored. The Green party party was included in the alliance despite being a party in government and supporting the treaty. Sinn Fein were included even though their opposition was based on very narrow grounds and did not involve any dissent from the broader policy of European capital.

Today the absolute betrayal of the trade union bureaucracy in supporting the bank bailout is again ignored. The Green party has fragmented, but with no gain to the left for the simple reason that they never criticized dissident greens or asked them to leave their party.  Sinn Fein hope to disguise the failure of their political project by retaining a seat in Dublin, calculating that left transfers will ease them in.

The alternative policy - seeking working class unity around a socialist program of opposition to the bank bailout and for democratic control of central elements of the economy, would mean small but immediate gains.

· It would begin to mobilize and unify a layer of workers and trade union activists.

· It would begin the task of building a trade union rank and file and begin breaking the stranglehold of the bureaucracy.

· By opposing groups like the Greens it would remove obstacles to the formation of a working class party. 

· It would expose Sinn Fein, a party of the right who also act as a barrier to a working class party.

We can only hope that the growing demands of working class activists and the incapacity of electoralism will drive the collapse of the current left strategy and a re-energising of the socialist movement.

It is traditional for left groups to offer advice on voting. We urge workers to vote for candidates fighting against the current offensive and for the self-organization of workers.  Where this is not possible they should spoil their vote.


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