Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Future of the Irish Left - Videos of the main speakers at the 2009 Peadar O'Donnell Weekend in Dungloe

The 9th Peadar O Donnell Weekend took place from the 16th - 18th October . On the Sunday morning there was an excellent debate on the future of the Left in Ireland.
Below are a series of videos from the main speakers. These included Pearse Doherty (Sinn Féin), Veronica Cawley (Labour), Colm Bryce (People Before Profit), Daithí Mac An Mháistír (éirígí) and Eddie Glackin (Communist Party of Ireland).


Pearce Doherty - Sinn Féin

Veronica Cawley - Labour

Colm Bryce - People Before Profit

Daithí Mac An Mháistír - Eirigi

Eddie Glackin - Communist Party of Ireland


  1. Fascinating how Eddie couldn't applaud Colm. Yet both belong to Democratic Centralist organisations which since the downfall of the SU hold little resonance with the average organised worker. Hence PBP not SWP. There is much to be done to win the masses to Socialism and to actually begin by discussing democracy within a workers state might be a start. What sort of state do we want? A top down 'we know what's good for you' left dictatorship or something else? Democracy must have hegemony.

  2. I only watched the Daithí Mac An Mháistír and Pearse Doherty clips and thought they were both interesing. I liked that they both focussed on the need to actually deliver rather than to debate. I especially like Doherty's clip. And some might say well you would as a SF supporter but I thought his focus on defining the nitty gritty of what we want was something I strongly agree with.

    I have often thought that the left needs to focus strongly on measurable criteria and must remove aspirational language (thats at least my impression). I think measurable critera would allow us to define our goals in policy terms and, critically, i think it would hold us true as a party to what we want and our plans to achieve it.

    Pearse mentioned greater equality in distrbution of wealth. The most common measure of which is the Gini coefficient, which we rank okayish compared to america but not so good compared to scandinavia.

    So aim 1 - greater distribution of wealth as measured by the gini coefficient and how we do that.

    I'd like to see a set of 5-7 aims like that for the Irish left.

    I think as supporters we'd have to recognise that whatever those aims would be they would have to be attainable. How many years would we set to achieve the aims etc We'd have to do it in stages I guess.

    They might then be the expression of our principles in economic terms. As such they maybe could help us continously innovate new policies based on a strong framework of 5 or 6 things we want to see happen.

    I also think this would be a key component of our political discussion with Irish voters and could be what we are known for.

    I think the Frnch left did somethign similar?

  3. It appears to me there is a clear division in the videos between those with realistic left wing objectives and the fantasists.

  4. Thanks for making these available! I listened to them all. There were interesting bits in them all. I thought Colm and Pearse were the more detailed in their outlook, and Eddie also was interesting. It would be hard to see much room for any left coalition from that panel though. To me, there's a clear divide, perhaps unstated, between those who want to overthrow capitalism as a system and those who want to 'work towards socialism' in a less clearly defined way.

    While there were plenty of broad socialist principles outlined in the discussion, there was very little real economic detail to back it up. I'd say one thing the Left needs is a couple of well-informed economists who can speak to the public in a language they can identify with. Are there any of those about?

  5. Speaking of realistic left wing objectives does anyone know if the party has decided not to support the striking postal workers in the north?
    Maybe their demands for decent pay and halting privatisation aren't 'realistic' in these hard times we need to pull together in the 'national interest'?
    I guess defeat for this strike might make it easier for the Executive to enforce market discipline on other public sector workers. Of course we'll have to listen to the yapping of leftie 'fantasists'. When will they learn that socialism just isn't realistic anymore? Well, unless you redefine the word to mean neo-liberalism as administrated by SF Ministers.

  6. Socialism is realistic and possible. Those who are frustrated by Lefty fantasists are not frustrated by their lefty objectives but rather by the fantasy based calls for implementation of those principles.

    We live in a world unfortunately defined by neo-liberalsim, a world in global recession verging on depression and in which the left is making little or no impact but rather its Merkel, Sarkozy etc who are driving the response.

    The broad left cant evolve its own response to this crisis, a credible response, because it spends too much time countering the claims of fantasists on the further left who accuse everyone of being a liberal, promise total change a la utopia, but who in reality have had no impact on the development of modern Ireland, and currently have no impact on how this country is responding to the economic crisis.

    people believe in socialism and that its possible but all they hear is promises, talk and they never see any real change - and thats from the people who set themselves up as the real left, the true radicals.

    Thats the fantasy part that frustrates people.
    The Labour here have made more of a contribution to the social good of the southern state than any of the further left who claim the moral high ground.

    Introduction of Equality Legislation. Mervyn Taylor, as Minister for Equality and Law reform introduced the Equality Legislation which for the first time outlawed discrimination against people with disabilities, gays and lesbians, Travellers, ethnic minorities and other minorities.

    Did they introduce the minimum wage. NO
    Did they really do much more than that NO

    Did they do more than every further left radical party in the state has ever achieved up to that date - A resounding YES.

    This is the difference between realism and fantasy.

    One party actually did something though small; the other lot just keep on calling for things to happen.

    Guess which contribution makes a difference to the real lives of people.

    You cant eat rhetoric.

    Labour voter.

  7. Labour voter.

    I would be interested to hear your opinions of trying to build an alternative block in the Dáil to the right wing policies of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

    It appears everytime a radical party (I include the greens and labour in this group) enter into coalition as a minor party, then their policies get so watered down to make it possible for them to make only minor gains.

    I believe that had Sinn Féin got the 10 - 12 TD's they hoped for at the last election then some in the party would have pushed for them to go into coalition. This to me would have been a complete disaster.

    This country needs a major change and we need to break the FF Fg stranglehold on power. this can only be achieved if the those left parties with political support come together and put forward a realistic viable alternative.

    Could you see the Labour Party agreeing to such a thing?

  8. As someone who worked for Pearse Doherty in 2007 as did Thames ,who was in the chair,I must say Pearse is suffering from lost of memory,50% tax on those on over E100,000 a year,that went out the window on the Sunday before polling day,now one knows how,came from the top.Pearse come to a meeting in Kilcar terr or four weeks that,told us "we are ready for Government North and South" asked if that meant going in with FF. he said or may be FG,people said " NO NO NO,Pearse if that is what it all about ,it not for us".That is why there no organisation in South West Donegal from Glencolumbkille to Donegal Town

  9. Starry, I believe your right that it was fortuitous that we didn't gain more seats during the last GE. The results, coupled with the latest locals, have made everyone step back a wee bit and take stock. I'm particularly glad Pearse was the SF rep at this meeting.

    As for Labour, I can understand why they don't want to form any broad left coalition. They too have differing strands of opinion; some of which are utterly hostile to SF. They've also stabablised their core electorate and seemed to have picked up some other voting blocs or indos. We'll just have to see how things work out if they get into govt.

    Going from pink to vivid red I would put the various presentations something like this:

    Labour <--> SF- -Eirigi <--> PBP <--> Communist

    and, of course, this just my very subjective opinion.

    What I found interesting is how much Communism reminds me of a chinese meal. Tasty when eating it but then I'm hungry an half hour later. Glakin was a good speaker and a bit inspiring but then, as always, you start asking when are the condition for revolution right? whose says the conditions are right? how are you going to implement revolutionary socialism and arrive at different outcomes than those we witnessed in the past? and so on.

    Back to the grindstone.

  10. As people on the left we are conscious that economic downturns are bad because they also entail destruction of social capital, the weakening of the fabric of society.

    I mention that because it ties with the 1950s. The 1950s was an era of unprecedented destruction for the fabric of irish society and yet there was no revolution. Nor was there a revolution following the 30s but considering the upheaval of a decade earlier thats not surprising.

    Look at the 1980s - no revolution. 37,000 leaving the country some years.

    We have a problem here - in order for there to be a revolution things must be bad, but when things are bad people leave thereby ensuring there is no revolution and will be no revolution as its understood in the radical sense.

    The left should not discount the possibility of there being a revolution in Ireland but nor should it use it as some magical god from the skies solution on how to tranfer to a socialist Ireland.

    Considering Irish society, and reflecting on our social history, how does the left progress its goals if there is no revolution. Set as as fixed, for arguments sake, that there will be no revolution in Ireland ever. How does the left progress?

  11. Historically revolutions occur at a point of rising expectations, not lessening ones, like a recession or depression. That is, when the present status quo are unable to meet the demands of the masses, the last being '68.

  12. Anon , see the article following this one for mention of Sinn Féin and the postal strike. There is a piece on it now on the national website under latest news. it cocerns martina Anderson meeting strikers on the picket line last Friday.

  13. Nioclas. I've read that a few times but it's not really true historically.
    Of course, revolutionary consciousness lags economic events. Right now people are just too concerned getting by but it is a time when the neoliberalist lie can be exposed and every outburst of class-consciousness needs to be built-upon.
    Historically, the main determinant in whether there's a revolution is whether there's a mass socialist party with a committed revolutionary not reformist leadership. It's no guarantee even then but it's necessitous. Right now there's no such thing in Ireland so there's no chance of revolution at this stage. So instead reformists will play opportunist with each other and we'll rearrange the deck-chairs of government once or twice.

  14. One of the probelems for me as a.... well I think I'm a socialist... I actually used to be very communist until it sort of collapsed, but anyway, one of the problems for me, as someone working in the public sector, for example, is that the same people who were at my lunch table two years ago talking about buying houses in Bulgaria etc, are the same people who are now insisting that I am some sort of scab because I think the maths are not going to work out nationally, and we need to be realistic here. That's my problem. I would be unambitious financially, but not blind to gombeenism.

  15. j

    1950's had a boarder campaign 1930's saw FF rise to power with a fairly decent social programe for the time, now even. also the IRA for a time become an open organisation and marched thousands on the streets of dublin and get in pitch battles with fascists which also rose in the 30's.

    1980's little group called the PIRA.

    the 1930's 1950's and 1980' may not have been all out revolution in ireland but there was certinly political termoil maybe more depending on how you evaluate them, in the early years FF were a progressive force, the boarder campaign failled, the 69 - 94, stalemate vitory, to early to tell depending on who you talk to. no enderor is gaurnteed sucess. some genterations get it some didn't. theres wider arguments in that on the why.

    but any way it more than likely will happen again, theres something comeing down the track. when the social fabric brakes down people begin to challange centinties. but people also attempt to defend them. the best example of this was the lisbon 2 referendum. the yes side won the change in the constitution by appealing to a conservatism that 'accepted' the celtic tiger as a cultural social etc peek and any movement away from that is to the detrement of life as we know it in the 26 counties.

    and the state sold its message well now thats not the end of it. republicans socialists progessives etc because there is an enviornment suseptable to change need to grasp the opportunity. it needs to be articulated that the values of the celtic tiger individualism materialism etc are esentialy whats hurting people today, create a choice to the celtic tiger on counter values. for some people this process is already happenig. some of the people who rejected the governments play on lisbon, out of that number something will probably happen how sucessfull republicans socialists etc are at getting people on board will detmine the sucess of that something.