Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Progressive Oppostion

It looks likely that there will be 14 Sinn Féin and up to 10 progressive left deputies in the incoming Dáil. 
These 24 progressive left Representatives need to eclipse Fianna Fail as the opposition to the incoming conservative administration and ensure that victory could be grasped from the jaws of defeat, so to speak.  This is a platform that we could barely imagine a few short weeks ago,
The election campaign was dominated bu the specific budgetary issues and the immediacy of the crisis facing the people.  Ideology struggled to feature.  It can now be a central feature of debate from the first day of the incoming Dáil.  The people can hear how and why we are in this crisis and just how similar FG and FF are.  It will also continue to force the members of the Labour Party to examine how best to use their political strength. 
I would make a particular appeal to the members of the ULA to resist the temptation to take an elitist view of what it means to be on the progressive left. The days of political sectarianism on the left need to be left behind.
The British Labour politician Tony Benn described British Labour something like this.  Labour is not a socialist party, but it has many Socialist within it.  SF could be described that way,  Certainly, the ULA should reach out to the membership of SF.  It would be good for both groups.  All activism is educational and it works both ways.


  1. This is a good point, and should be accepted by all on the left if we want to keep relevant and promote our views. If we rely on Labour to be the flag bearer for left policies then we are doomed! Sinn Fein and other left party's need to show leadership, put FF in the back benches and start to educate the nation to an alternative which this proposition gives us. It will put it up to the media and for the first time bring left policy to the front page. We all engage in campaigns on one issue or another but this would be a project of monumental proportions that truly will change the face of Ireland and the future for the people through socialist politics! The government will truly be in a state of confusion confronted with this prospect!

  2. This is a great proposal! This left grouping will have shadow ministers for health, education and finance etc! these portfolios could be shared between Sinn Fein, PBP, SP/ULA etc. What a chance this would give the people of Ireland to true democracy and not the stale FF/FG right/right politics we have been fed up to now! this is exciting and progressive. We have to acknowledge there are differences between the different groups but nothing to the benefits this could bring to Ireland. Not only will the Irish establishment sit up and take notice but we can be the intellectual and moral compass for a Europe who needs direction. If Sinn Fein and other left leaning groups can be strong and meet this challenge we will be doing great service to our country by bring a socialist democracy one step closer!!

  3. The ULA is full of bigots, it will prove impossible to work with them.

  4. Anon 5:11 Any chance of a deeper explanation of your thoughts

  5. Vincent, who would you describe as the 10 deputies to join with SF

  6. @mellows
    The 4 ULA's, Thomas Pringle, Healy, maureen Sullivan, Halligan (Waterford) and Finian McGrath. Catherine Murphy and Mick Wallace are wild cards. I wrote the piece before Galway West was finished and hoped for Catherine Connolly. It could be 8 or 11 depending on how 'left' or even on issues.

    I wouldn't call the ULA bigots, but they find it hard to acknowlege leftism outside of thier ranks and they need to reflect on that if they are serious about progressive and radical change,

  7. For any group in society to gain control and implement their vision of how society should be governed, they must first step outside their own boundaries and form common purpose with others. Not solely within class definitions but on an issue by issue and policy by policy bases. For example, women’s rights, not only are an issue for working class women but middle class woman as well. By engaging with different social classes on issues which in essence affects us all, you build support for your ideas, which then in time is accepted as a common sense position which gives credibility to the wider struggle for your primary goals. It is through this process that hegemony is achieved by dominant groups in society, be it political parties or car manufactures, all wanting to insure that the speak with common sense so we don’t have to think. In capitalist cultures this method of disseminating information or other messages, is called advertising and is used in a cynical way to make us commercial slaves to the markets and dumb us down to the point where we no longer are capable of seeing an alternative and accept that we must conform to being a “model” citizen, unquestioning of corrupt government and failed policy!
    This proposition that we form a left opposition to FG/L is a good one, but as an Irish republican I feel we must be careful to maintain our relevance in the minds of the Irish people. We have made great strides and our views are being more shared by the Irish people. We have wider appeal than I am sorry to say other leftist groups/parties. We have policies which transcend narrow intellectual and philosophical debate which are held in closed forums attended only by the left elite! Sinn Fein have a clear intellectual, philosophical and moral position! We are demonstrating that we can give intellectual and moral leadership which the people see is not cynical or self motivated but based on principles of republicanism were the rights of the individual are upheld by society in a collective fashion to the benefit of society.
    It is my view that this coalition of the left must be perused, but not to the point of our credibility or republican ideas and values are compromised. We don’t have a monopoly on socialist ideas, but we do have them and aspire them to be at the core of our national aspiration. So we must try to reach out to our comrades on the left as it will strengthen our collective position but republicans need to be sure that it will last as long in a unified opposition and possibly longer than that off our right wing government, as a dissolution of the left in opposition could be used as our weakness in future election campaigns.
    Sinn Fein will bring change, be it on our own or with support from independents. We have and have been, giving strong moral and intellectual leadership which is based on solid principles and ideology! We should not take lessons from anyone but listen to their positions and be brave to reach out to them if it is to advance our goals and the aspirations of the people from whom we get our support!

  8. It's a great idea. The FF beast needs to be killed off and it would provide an effective opposition.

    The main problem however is the ULA - members I've broached this to have either said a) it won't matter since the opposition will be dominated by the left wing or b) SF aren't left enough for them.
    a) is really just a diplomatic cop-out for b). It isn't surprising given the fact that the ULA programme talks about replacing SF and one of their component parties (the SP) takes a largely unionist position regarding the national question.
    The left indo's should be easier to work with. Maureen O'Sullivan and Finian McGrath have been part of the 30th Dail technical group. Other left wing indo's (Wallace, Halligan, Murphy and Pringle) are also going to be more pragmatic and less sectarian in their approach.
    If the ULA want to have their own technical group and be isolated let them. Due to Dail standing orders we'll have more speaking time then they. Main disadvantage to all of us is that FF would get more time and probably rejuvinate. Disadvantage to the ULA is that under the same standing order's they cannot refuse any TD admittance to the group (say hello to Michael Healy Rae and Michael Lowry).

  9. @last anon above
    The ULA will have to learn the hard way. Its broad left or no left. Unless they want to take a position akin to the one RSF have taken and claim to keep a purist flame alive until ideal revolutionary conditions prevail.

    As with all intransigents, its worth trying to wear them dowm. They are good people with the right ideological drift. I'd still engage with them and as far as how far left we all are - actions speak louder than words. How far left SF can travel is contingent on its membership pushing it that way and illustrating how progressive leftism builds political strength.

    The approach SF took to this election - ruling our coaltion with FF anf FG and being firm on the bondholders- benefitted the party and netted electoral gain. In 2007 there was a percieved ambiguity on coalition with FF which, in my opinion damaged the party in the eyes of progressive electors. There was a debate on this both sides of that election. It may not always seem obvious to the rank and file (who beleive that everything is driven by the leadership), but I think a lesson was learned and acted on. Don't expect anyone to admit it though!