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The Left and Elections: In Defence of the Vote

category national | elections / politics | feature author Monday December 01, 2003 17:38author by hs - sp (personal capacity) Report this post to the editors

From the newswire

There has been excellent coverage of the elections for the Assembly and criticism of the lack of interest shown by IMC-IE contributors in this topic. This has been attributed variously to "southern myopia" or to "anarchist anti-electoralism." In the essay below, written by newswire contributor "hs - sp", the importance of elections is discussed.

ballot_box.jpeg

With elections coming in the south and just after the elections in Northern Ireland there have been some comments on indymedia on the idea of standing in elections and voting itself. But there has not been a full debate on the subject alone. This is an important question for activists in all groups and parties, especially as more have taken an electoral strategy. We also expect to see anti-bin charge candidates. Although we should remember that this is not the only reason everyone is standing. Hopefully this can begin a debate on the subject without falling into name calling such as “reformist" or “ultra-left”.

I will begin with the preamble that I am writing from my own personal opinion and experiences and do not represent the views of the socialist party or anybody else (and if anybody feels I have misrepresented their position they are free to correct). And I will add I am also someone who has been living abroad for the last few years so won’t be up to date on every detail of every campaign or comment.

The leaders and the led

The main ideological argument I have heard against voting or standing in elections is that the electoral process itself divides people into “leaders and led”. This in some ways of course is true, obviously whether we like it or not Bertie Ahern is the Prime Minister. And this will also remain the case if we don’t vote. But the deeper implication of this argument is that once someone votes it means they are expecting the person they elected to solve their problems for them and even think for them. That he or she is the voters “leader”. And socialists by standing say the same thing.

Anarchists and socialists have made the argument that people would be better fighting to solve their problems rather than expecting a politician to do it for them. This is all very true except for one basic fact. I have never met anyone in my life who after voting for someone expected him or her to solve all their problems. Or that people stop being activists after they get a good politician elected (of course that’s not saying elected politicians should do nothing for constituents!). The argument from anarchists has often been a black and white issue, either you vote or you are an activist, either you are a sheep or an individual. But the issue is not black and white peoples opinions differ and also change. And as with everything in life there are many shades of grey. The idea that voting prevents other activity is simply not true if anything voting can be the first political activity many people take. It may be a passive activity for the majority but that is also true of non voters. And the idea that a victory for a socialist candidate will solve all your problems is something I have never heard a single party or group make. Voting or standing in elections is not contradictory to campaigning.

Leadership? No thanks!

The words “leader” and “leadership” have terrible connotations. When I think of the word leader or leadership I think of a George W. Bush speech or some arrogant politician with airs and graces. And anyway who’s going to let anyone tell them what to do? Anarchists are forever arguing against their perceived “little lenins,” yet in practice anarchists themselves have played a leadership role at times. For example there is the movement against the military use of Shannon airport and direct action. The IAWM as well as both the socialist party and socialist workers party were opposed to using direct action. But many of the rank and file of the IAWM did support the idea. Anarchists led by example and made the direct action and this in turn effected the IAWM, which because of pressure from below has now endorsed direct action. Now the anarchists did not go to the IAWM and argue the case they simply led. The anarchists played a leadership role, and frankly they were correct to do so. In my opinion and with the greatest respect I believe my own party’s position was a mistake and direct action is the correct strategy for Shannon. As long as it is organised democratically and with safety concerns, first aid, stewards etc. And with reference to the local community and airport workers. Call it what you like but the activists played a leadership role.

The same argument can be made for the bin tax campaign in Fingal. If the Fingal Anti-Bin Tax Campaign had not made such an impact at the beginning its doubtful it would have become such a big issue. Somebody had to suggest the idea of the blockades in the bin tax meetings and somebody had to argue the case. This does not make them “leaders” as such but it is a leadership role. And those elected to represent the different campaign groups are just that, representatives. A campaign of a thousand people let alone ten thousand can only be run well by delegated representatives. If there is no structure a leadership will emerge of that there is no doubt. But there will be no checks or balances or any way to challenge the direction of the campaign or replace the leadership.

Voting and political activity

Another point often made is that it would be better organising people into activity than getting people to vote. As one commenter put it 20,000 people not paying for their bin tax is better than 20,000 people voting for anti – bin tax candidates. But this again buts us into the black and white position of either or. What about 20,000 people not paying for their bin tax and voting for anti tax candidates?

There is no proof that standing in elections is contradictory to activity and campaigning. For example we can look at Fingal again. Fingal is the only area in Ireland where there has been a consistent vote for the hard left recently, (Dublin North and West) yet it proved to be one of the most militant areas when it came to the bin charges.

Why do people vote for socialists?

This brings into the argument of why people vote socialist at all. Ireland is different to many European countries in that we did not produce a mass communist or socialist party. Therefore unlike Italy or Spain for example you have very few people who describe themselves as communist or socialist or anarchist.

Generally I think you find in Ireland that you have activists but not so many supporters of these ideologies or even a general left position. Where for example in Italy someone will vote for Rifondazione Communista because they are a communist in Ireland people only vote for socialists for work they have done. Rather than for the party or ideology. This is becoming common across the political spectrum as we see more single issue candidates and independents and less committed FF and FG supporters. This can of course change with Sinn Fein gaining support and possibly the Socialist Party in Dublin. But up to now socialist candidates have received a personal rather than party vote.

The Socialist Party’s vote did not come because the people of Fingal took a sudden interest in the works of Lenin, Marx and Trotsky. The vote came from the activity of party members in the area because of work on local issues and campaigns such as the water and bin taxes. So in the Irish situation standing in elections is not contradictory to activity but in fact complimentary. And in truth essential, if you are not active in the community you will simply not be elected and if you do not continue to be you will loose your seat.

Another argument is that the party, which takes the electoral road, will slowly but surely become simply an electoral party and activists will simply concentrate on getting their people elected. True this has happened with some parties in the past but it is by no means obligatory. Again with my own party it did not become less activist after Joe Higgins won his council seat, if anything it became more. And again the only real way for a socialist to get elected is campaigning work not simply electoral work.

Why people don’t vote is another question, often in some areas the choice is very little FF or FG, even Labour by insisting in propping up both parties is rarely seen as an alternative. Sinn Fein are filling this gap in many areas. Socialist candidates too have to be credible or people won’t vote for them. And of course a lot of people are apathetic or couldn’t care less. A good socialist candidate who has worked in the area on campaigns can change this apathy. The truth is political support for socialist parties must be built from the grass roots up. Otherwise as we have seen in too many cases no one will vote for them. Program too is essential, even if you are a small party you have to offer something for people to support. And with the great rush to the centre in (or right) in European politics it is not difficult to stand out. But without the work on the ground it will make little difference.

Elections and reformism

Reformist” is one of the best insults in leftism, but often it is a word misused so I would like to define it to begin with. Originally reformism in the socialist or communist sense meant changing society to a communist society but doing it peacefully and by reforms (of course the current owners of production aren’t always in agreement!). But today reformism really means making reforms to make life a little better but there is no changing of society at the end. Some understandably enough have made the argument that all political parties who take the part in elections end up being reformist parties. I think they are referring to the latter more contemporary definition. As proof they point to many leftist parties in the past. This of course in some cases is true in some cases not so. For example Western Europe’s biggest post war communist party the Italian Communist party was reformist (in the original sense) to begin with. Elections did not make it reformist it was founded that way. Sharing power with the Christian Democrats after the war made it put a brake on mass movements, but there is a difference between sharing power with right wing parties and standing in elections. But it is true there is a risk that the electoral strategy can lead a party that way. But does that mean to reject it? If we’re not willing to take risks can we change society? I can just as easily argue that socialism or anarchism is a failure because it failed in every manifestation in the past, but do you just give up? Of course not. In short it has happened in the past but it is not obligatory and it’s a necessary risk that must be taken.

Legitimacy

Another argument is the old one that taking part in elections gives legitimacy to bourgeois parliaments. Which in the southern Irish situation is simply not true. The Dail whether we like it or not is seen as legitimate by the vast majority of the people. There is of course many times when a parliament does not have legitimacy for example the old Stormont or the recent events in Georgia. But this is simply not the case in Southern Ireland now.

Or there are situations when there are two competing systems of government “dual power” as Marxists like to call it. For example during the Russian revolution when there was two centres of power one in the parliament the other in the workers councils or soviets. Or an example closer to home Sinn Fein's Abstention from the British Parliament after the 1918 elections. Remembering of course Sinn Fein in 1918 was a mass party with a huge mandate and it set up a rival system of power, not socialist but it still makes the point. Of course SF did take part in the elections first. Sinn feins abstention from Westminster in the recent period had more to do with tradition than organising a rival government and had little if any effect.

Now there is no rival system, there are no workers soviets or councils there are no centres of popular power. So in short when we are faced with a situation of two rival systems, soviets versus parliament for example, anarchists have a point. And, at the time parties and groups would need to argue whether to enter a parliament or not. But when we don’t and the left is miniscule I think the argument doesn’t work. And it separates the left from society as a whole.

Voting in referendums and trade unions

Voting in referendums is another issue, of course it is very different to standing candidates and there are cases when and when not to vote. In some countries people are also free to organise their own referendums and even recall politicians (as seen recently in California). Legitimacy can come more to the point with referendums, for example the republican and nationalist movement refused to legitimise referendums in the North which they couldn’t win. In the south though it is a different situation. We cannot ignore them for the simple the fact that if we ignore the referendums they will simply go through. (In Italy for example 51% of the voting population must vote or the referendum is not valid, therefore abstaining is a political tactic used by both left and right) Of course as the Nice referendum proved the government will simply not except the “wrong” answer. But it does expose them somewhat. If the left had boycotted the referendum it would not have been noticed at all while handing the opposition position completely to the reactionaries.

On the issue of trade unions too there seems to be less disagreement with most parties and groups on the left (as far as I’m aware) willing to stand and support candidates now. Including the Irish anarchist group Workers Solidarity Movement. I would appreciate an clarification from a member of the WSM on this. Why is it all right to elect leaders in a trade union but not candidates for local councils? And does this include all trade unions (including right wing ones, which is a point in Europe). Is it only for delegates or is it also for positions such as president or general secretary? Do the WSM think that the unions in Ireland could be transformed? In Italy many anarchists have chosen to organise their own anarchist trade union rather than work in the mass ones. Others work within the small but militant rank and file unions. And the official trade unions in Italy are 100 times more militant than their Irish counterparts. And does the same apply for student unions?

My own opinion is that especially when there is no other options we should work and stand for elections in trade unions right wing or not.

The councils/parliament have no power

The point is also often made that there is no power in the councils or even the parliament itself. That the real power lies within the board rooms of big business who will never allow a government to enact socialism. This is perfectly true, there would be a flight of capital, strikes and lockouts would follow and as proved in many countries the revolution could be derailed. In the end the movement outside the parliament is more important. This is pretty much agreed on within the hard left. But outside the hard left? In the general population it’s not the case. True or not it is a minority position, Simply saying that there’s no point is really not enough. Intellectual arguments aren’t enough. The nice referendum exposed the government’s hypocrisy much better than any argument could. If we had simply said, “we’re not voting in the referendum because the government won’t accept a ‘no’ vote anyway”, no one would have listened. Better to win the vote and expose the hypocrisy. If we say we are boycotting the parliament because it has no power the vast majority will pay no attention.

Activists know that the council’s power on the bin charge issue was removed and given to the county manager. So the arguments go, even if we had a anti bin tax majority in a council they would be powerless anyway. This is not true they would not be powerless; the fact of council being overturned would again expose the government and put them in a very difficult political position. Not to mention the massive publicity. A majority in a council would boost the campaign, which could go further than the issue of the bin tax itself. A left wing local council could have a huge political effect on the area and even nationally even without power.

The same could be said within a parliament (obviously we are nowhere near there). But nobody will change the system in Ireland unless the current system is seen to fail. And politics is more than numbers a left victory can rally supporters and help build strike and other movements. But even now it is possible to build a vocal opposition within the Dail which can give political support to strikes and other movements.

A platform

The socialist party’s position is pretty well known so I won’t spend too much time it. That is to use elected positions as a platform for socialist ideas and to help build a mass movement as well as to voice opposition and question the government. This is just one part of the party’s activity along with community, youth and trade union work. The party doesn’t believe that a simple majority in parliament will create a socialist state but the real transformation will have to take place in the workplaces and communities. Representatives must live on the wage of a worker therefore keeping his or her feet on the ground this is also the rule for trade union positions.

I don’t know the position of the socialist workers party or others who may stand and will leave it to them to put their positions forward.

Socialist disUnity

We cannot talk about elections without mentioning unity or lack of. As is well known the Socialist Workers Party have called for an electoral pact or alliance. I’m not really sure which, a pact being simply endorsing each other’s candidates, an alliance or pact where each party puts candidates forward on a single list or an alliance where candidates would be chosen by members of the alliance (including those not belonging to either the SP or SWP). They are all very different things. In reality I don’t think an endorsement makes much difference as long as we don’t stand against each other. As I said before, people vote for the candidates rather than the party. There is also the problem of the last attempt to set up and Socialist Alliance in Ireland and frankly rightly or wrongly many people in the socialist party don’t trust the SWP to stick with it. (But stranger things have happened!) If there is community candidates on issues such as the bin tax. The socialist party generally supports the community candidate. A wider alliance needs to be more than the two parties or I don’t see much point. If the majority of an alliance is made up with members of just one party I don’t think it would work.

Not Sheep

In conclusion voting doesn’t mean you are a sheep, that you are legitimising "evil bourgeois parliaments", that you accept the status quo or that you have given up on community, workplace or political activity. It is just another way of voicing your opposition without preventing you from doing anything else. Standing for an election doesn’t make you a dictator in waiting or mean you think you have all the answers. We have to make a challenge wherever possible whether in our workplaces in our communities, culturally or politically. The left must move out of the political ghetto and become a mass movement. Elections are not the only way to do this, campaigning work is always better but elections can be complimentary to the process and also help the left to move beyond single issues such as service charges and the war in Iraq and into a more generalised movement. And something we must always remember just because we decide not to vote and stand in elections does not mean our opponents won’t. In many European countries where the left failed to offer an alternative extreme right wing parties have stepped in often with stunning success. But for a less dramatic example we can be pretty sure lots of pro bin tax candidates will be standing in the local elections so why shouldn’t we support and vote for those who oppose it?

author by melpublication date Mon Dec 01, 2003 16:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Dail voted unanimously to send troops to Liberia-- what did Joe Higgens do that day?
by mel Friday, Nov 28 2003, 4:30pm

Just wondereing whether Higgens didn't bother attending the dail for a vote to send UN troops to help subjugate another country or... worse?

All I know was he was in the Dail before and after the 'debate' on Liberia -- where was he during it?

author by hs - sppublication date Mon Dec 01, 2003 16:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Give him a phone call, the dail office number is in the phonebook. Don't know myself but I can tell you the socialist party has no plans to invade Liberia. (or worse!)

author by Joepublication date Mon Dec 01, 2003 16:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The above is obviously intended to counter the anarchist arguments against electoralism. Yet it ignores the core anarchist criticism of this process

"The very act of going into a polling booth and putting a number or an X on a piece of paper is in itself an act of disempowerment, it is an acceptance that someone else has the right to make decisions on our behalf.

In every situation in which decisions have to be made, there are basically two options - either the decision is made by the people effected by it or it is made by someone else. Capitalist society being what it is, usually our decisions are made for us by someone else. Being an anarchist however means refusing the right of rulers to rule ( and no matter how nice or benign they might be they would still be rulers). The argument is simple - rather than choose who should make decisions for us why don't we use our energies to attempt to build a new society in which we can make those decisions for ourselves? Instead elections are based on the idea of getting someone else to act on our behalves? "far from empowering people and giving them a sense of confidence and ability, electioneering disempowers them by creating a 'leader' figure from which changes are expected to flow." 'Anarchist FAQ' J.2.2. paragraph 27"

What is FUNDAMENTAL to anarchist politics is breaking down the leaders/led or boss/worker division. A division that so called 'workers states' like the USSR re-created (under Lenin in 1918). Elections are all about getting people to choose better leaders, to accept that the way you change things is to vote for X rather then Y and hope that X then does what you wanted them to do.

Lots on elections at the link below

Related Link: http://struggle.ws/election.html
author by The Musepublication date Mon Dec 01, 2003 17:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Good article by HS-SP. However, granted the relative electoral success of SP but if Fingal was so militant, why is everybody paying the bin charge now? Fingal had a high profile because it happened first and because of the profile of the organisers. Let's not confuse a profile with militancy. What lessons are in this for the City campaign?

author by iosafpublication date Mon Dec 01, 2003 17:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

in the constituency of my birth as reciprocal right as a European Citizen. If I accept my right to vote or not vote in an Irish constituency I would rescind my right to vote or not vote in another European Constitution.
Of the various elections held in Europe this year where non-residents were allowed to vote or not vote, figures are only available for those who chose to exercise their franchise and vote. The largest non-resident vote was made by Catalan non-residents, who interestingly mirrored resident voting patterns to the precentage, marginally more votes going to left parties. No seat was decided by the margin of non-resident votes. The non-resident vote (at less than 3% of the total votes allowed) rather seemed to confirm the move to nationalist and leftwing manifestos.

I also want all the other European Citizens of the present and future states of the European Union to have a similar right to vote, or "not vote". Though I doubt I will ever use that right, that's cool enough, I have not exercised my right to refugee status yet, nor assemble anywhere and say anything I please, nor my right to marry whomever i want, though I'm working on it.

author by conor (wsm personal capacity)publication date Mon Dec 01, 2003 17:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

could I firstly say that the above article is well written, constructive and a very fair attempt to open a debate that badly needs airing. So fair play to HS. I'd also like to thank HS for the nice things they say about Shannon and direct action

particularly they go on

"Leadership? No thanks!

The words “leader” and “leadership” have terrible connotations. When I think of the word leader or leadership I think of a George W. Bush speech or some arrogant politician with airs and graces. And anyway who’s going to let anyone tell them what to do? Anarchists are forever arguing against their perceived “little lenins.” Yet in practice anarchists themselves have played a leadership role at times. For example there is the movement against the military use of Shannon airport and direct action. The IAWM as well as both the socialist party and socialist workers party were opposed to using direct action. But many of the rank and file of the IAWM did support the idea. Anarchists led by example and made the direct action and this in turn effected the IAWM, which because of pressure from below has now endorsed direct action. Now the anarchists did not go to the IAWM and argue the case they simply led. The anarchists played a leadership role, and frankly they were correct to do so. In my opinion and with the greatest respect I believe my own party’s position was a mistake and direct action is the correct strategy for Shannon. As long as it is organised democratically and with safety concerns, first aid, stewards etc. And with reference to the local community and airport workers. Call it what you like but the activists played a leadership role. "
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>.

Just on a small point of order we did "go to the IAWM" several times and in several forms and were ignored/told to take a running jump - I believe there are records too if any one wants a look!


OK my nit picking - we did play a leadership role on Shannon. Anarchist are in no way oppossed to the idea of giving leadership. The reason I'm in a group called the WSM is that we want to propogandise for anarchism. eg try to lead people.

Theres a but of course !
We are for leadership of ideas not leadership of position. We are for leadership by example not by orders. we are for leadership by convincing not by dragging people by the nose to some bright future.

Elected representitives are full time, well paid and unrecallbale.

We favour direct democracy where delegates are elected by written mandate and where they are completely anaswerable and recallable. This is completely impossible within parlimentary elections

Direct democracy which we support is an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT CONCEPT

to quote from our pamphlet Parliament or Democracy

1.Direct democracy is about 'originating' ideas as much as it is about 'approving' them. In parliamentary democracy, people are never asked for their own ideas - they are only asked to 'approve' or 'disapprove' of ideas already prepared for them. Direct democracy is radically different in that way. Direct democracy is based on the realistic notion that 'people know best how to look after their own situation'. We don't need specialists to tell us how to run our places of work or our communities. Anarchists argue that we are quite capable of doing this ourselves. All we need are the resources and the right to do this. Direct democracy is the method.

2.Direct democracy is based on delegation not representation. The crucial difference between delegation and representation is that delegates are only elected to implement specific decisions. Delegates do not have the right (like TDs or MPs) to change a decision previously made by an assembly of people. Delegates (unlike representatives) can be immediately recalled and dismissed from their mandate if they don't carry out the specific function allotted to them.

3.Direct democracy is as much about the workplace as it is about the community. In parliamentary democracy, the workplace is 'immune' to democracy (save what rights workers have won through their unions). In direct democracy, the operation of a factory or a plant or an office will be via a general assembly of all workers. This body will decide on conditions of work, will elect re-callable managers, and will organise how work is done. It will also elect people (as delegates) who will co-ordinate with the other places of work and with the broader community. Regional organisation will be managed through a federation of workplaces using a delegate structure.

http://www.struggle.ws/once/pd_chap9.html

As to the WSM we have no problem in our IDEAs becoming the leading ideas but we totally opposs the idea of self appointed vangaurds acting on other people's behalf

"We seek influence for our ideas in all class organisations. In real terms that means WSM will go forward for all positions in the unions and other bodies where there is the possibility of mandating and recall. We will never accept any position that is not under the control of the members of that body. Such positions are not ends in themselves. The struggle to win them must be bound up with a fight for more democracy, more mandating, more control. We are striving for the self-activity of the many "

http://www.struggle.ws/ppapers/role.html

Conor

Related Link: http://www.struggle.ws
author by cueballpublication date Mon Dec 01, 2003 17:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I won't argue your point that its not a black and white issue, in that you can be an electoral and activist oriented group at the same time.

The question is though is, at what cost? Electoral campaigns take alot of people, energy and resources to be run successfully, and usually for small returns in the form a "platform" in the dail or wherever.

On the other hand the same resources could be put into organising community groups and the like which if successful has a much higher return in that it empowers people and changes their perception of their ability to effect change, which in the long run is the only strategy that will work effectively.

And speaking as an activist myself I get much more personal satisfaction from running even a defeated campaign of local organisation and resistance than I ever did from my previous participation in successful electoral wins.

Reason being after the first you still feel you've made a stand and the number of people involved in whatever issue is at hand in your area have increased considerably. After an election you sit back and thats it, your man has got in and you've no power left, no control, you just feel like a pawn. Thats my experience anyway.

author by Chekovpublication date Mon Dec 01, 2003 18:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I've made my point of view about electoralism known on indymedia a fair few times recently, so I won't go over the stuff I've already said.

But there is one thing that I think HS and other activists who propose a dual strategy of activism and electoralism ('ballot boxes and blockades') miss.

Simply put, activism and electoralism require completely different strategies and the two don't mix well. For a start there is the fact that we only have limited energy and it often comes down to activism OR electoralism. You either spend your time going to cross-party bin tax meetings and putting together non-partisan propaganda, or you spend your time canvassing for a party and putting together partisan propaganda. Due to the predominant scepticism about party politics, the first is far more effective in terms of activism.

Even if you can combine the two to good effect, as the SP promises to do with the bin-tax/ local elections, there are problems. If you are running a candidate on the issue, you need to make sure that the candidate gets publicly associated with the issue. So every time that the press comes knocking, you are going to try to push your candidate as the spokesperson. You are also going to be promoting your candidate's history of action around the campaign and will tend to attribute a lot of the campaign's success to your candidate. You might think that you won't, but that's how elections work, and if you don't do these things you'll lose because nobody has ever heard of you. And why bother running an election campaign if you aren't going to try to win? Once you are a candidate in the election, whatever good intentions you may have, the logic of electoralism will push you that way.

On the other hand, the best approach from an activist point of view is to try to give as many people as possible a go in front of the media, to build up confidence, make people feel involved with the campaign, give the impression that there are many people active and so on. On the doorsteps you want to play down the influence of the big names and emphasise the point that it is masses of ordinary people taking action that forms the strength of the campaign. This is pretty much the opposite of the message that you will be giving if you are running a candidate.

Some may pretend that they can avoid this, but you can't change the rules of the game and that's how it works.

As an aside, I've thought for the last few years that the SP are inexorably heading down the electoralist route, the cul-de-sac of revolutionary politics. Why do you think that you'll avoid going the same way as the WP/DL? It seems to me that ye are charging down that road with your foot on the floor.

author by Jonahpublication date Mon Dec 01, 2003 18:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Someone was inquiring what statement Joe Higgins made when the motion to send Irish troops to Liberia was debated in Leinster House.

Mr Higgins chose not to speak on the motion. The Technical Group speakers were Deputies Gormley, McGrath, O Snodaigh, Connolly, Crowe and Boyle.

The motion was put to the House and agreed without a vote or without any objections. The debate took place on the 12th of November and should be available on the Oireachtas website.

author by Jonahpublication date Mon Dec 01, 2003 18:17author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The individual also sough information as to whether Deputy Higgins was present in Leinster House on that day. Deputy Higgins was present and spoke during Questions to the Taoiseach (Prior to the Liberian debate) and on industrial relations legislation (Following the Liberian debate)

author by ecpublication date Mon Dec 01, 2003 18:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

.

author by Jamespublication date Mon Dec 01, 2003 19:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

>Elections did not make it (Italian Communist Party) reformist it was founded that way.
But the principle of the communist party was founded on was crucial: it accepted the need for a state and for it to be at the helm. Therefore standing for elections is simply a logical move on its part; it recognises the state and its willingness to stand for election is but a minor part of its ideology.

Elections aren’t really the issue, the state is. Republican Sinn Fein don’t stand in some elections, but not for anti-statist reasons. They don’t because of the particular vagaries of the northern state. We are not anti-election just for its own sake, but because of the wider context: it entails accepting hierarchical structures which we fundamentally disagree with.
For anarchists are libertarian socialists and there is nothing libertarian about the state. To put ourselves forward for state power would be a fundamental contradiction of our anarchist principles. We cannot seriously talk to people about libertarian socialism while at the same time putting ourselves forward for positions where we can make decisions on others’ behalf.

The Socialist Party and its like aren’t libertarian and therefore these considerations don’t apply. Going on contributions from the floor in your summer debate with us, the SP regards representative democracy with some safe-guards such as average wage for reps, recallable representatives (actually I don’t recall that being mentioned but I presume youse subscribe to it) as being sufficient to usher in a stateless, classless society. Representative democracy gives people the power to make decisions on policy, tactics and how to execute these decisions on behalf of a much greater number of people. This is the type of system we have at present.

Libertarians disagree with such a system. We regard representative democracy as a dead end in terms of achieving libertarian socialism. And as that is our end goal, we think our means should be similarly libertarian. Representative systems recreate the patterns of leaders and led. And as elections, both local and national, are part of the state system, we are not going to run for something we believe cannot be reformed.

We reject the concept that anarchists have the authority to order people to take part in DA in Shannon (or elsewhere). We’ll argue it, but we won’t impose it.
With the State, and most party organisation and private enterprises, they’ll ask you to do something and if you don’t you’ll find there will be consequences which forces their will on you: the policeman, disciplining, or firing. The TDs in the Dail have the authority to make laws which the rest of us must obey. As anarchists we’ll never accept the legitimacy of this. So it makes sense not to participate in such a system.

Elections to positions where there is NO power and NO authority to make decisions, decide policy, implement tactics on behalf of others are another matter.

Within the WSM it is possible to have elections to various positions, secretary, treasurer etc. (Actually we are so tiny we can dispense with them). But these positions are purely administrative. The positions carry no authority to decide things on behalf of the organisation as a whole. For example, if we want to make a donation to a prisoner solidarity fund, the organisation decides it, the treasurer administrates this decision. There are no leadership positions which can decide policy on behalf of the organisation. So if two or three individuals decided that the WSM as an organisation should support blockades they would be told to take a running jump and go on them themselves. That decision requires the input of all who will be affected.

>Again with my own party it did not become less activist after Joe Higgins won his >council seat, if anything it became more.
Fair enough, but we’d prefer to wait and see what the story is when you’ve got a significant number of seats. The pressure to tone down the politics is heightened as the party becomes more sizable. It’s a fair point that anarchism, like authoritarian socialism, has never succeeded but then anarchists have very rarely been in a position as commanding as the Social Democrats in Germany, or Labour in England or the Bolsheviks in Russia where socialists had power, had succeeded in getting the reins of state-power in their hands, but yet refused to implement their program. Anarchists just lose civil wars!

>The Dail whether we like it or not is seen as legitimate by the vast majority of the people.
True, and we are not suggesting that people bomb it or anything. We do argue that it ought not to be seen as legitimate by the vast majority of the people and that we should begin to build towards getting rid of it and replacing it with something much better. That argument lacks any credibility if we run for State offices.

Anarchists generally don’t have problems with voting on referendums where you get an equal say with everybody. They’re not perfect though, as who decides the wording, at least in Ireland, is the prerogative of a small group.

>A majority in a council would boost the campaign, which could go further than the >issue of the bin tax itself. A left wing local council could have a huge political effect >on the area and even nationally even without power
Personally, I think there’d some truth to this if it ever happened, but that practically, the effort to achieve it would be so great that it would come at the expense of grassroots activity. The parliamentary elite and their backroom handlers would gradually accumulate prestige, power and influence which will negate mass grassroots activity. The parliamentary route, though superficially shorter, is in reality a longer route – if your aim is to have mass participation in the running of society.

There is also truth to the point about the platform statist methods provide. I think this is relevant partially due to the weakness of the libertarian socialism here. We can throw our hands up and say “we’ll never get build a libertarian movement, we may as well go parliamentary”. Understandable, but not our road.

author by counter punchpublication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 14:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Democracy Delayed
Northern Ireland has an Election, But No Government in Sight
By HARRY BROWNE

If you take the long view, perhaps the most striking story of last Wednesday's elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly is this one: the party that ruled the "Protestant state for a Protestant people" for most of its history after the partition of Ireland was outpolled by a movement that up to a decade ago was in armed insurrection against that state.
Given Ireland's alleged obsession with history, that story, of Sinn Fein overtaking the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) in the popular vote, has been remarkably little noted. In fact, you would hardly know the two parties were competing in the same election. Instead, the election has been widely portrayed as two separate polls: one for supremacy among the Catholic/nationalist minority, in which Sinn Fein decisively overtook the SDLP (of which John Hume has retired as leader); and one contest for votes from the unionist majority, in which Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) trumped David Trimble's UUP.

more at...
http://www.counterpunch.org/browne12012003.html

author by hs - sppublication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 14:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Made the front page! thanks for all the comments, just a quick point or two, first on electoral work. True it takes alot of time and hard work but its not permanent. Elections happen every few years and as I argued campaigning work is more useful than any election work. its also not true they can be not be done together, it is very easy to have party meetings and be involved in campaigns. Parties don't meet seven days a week 24 hours a day. And at times when there are clashes party meetings can be postphoned for a day or to. Obviously everyone can't be part of everything (I often feel sorry for the poor comrades in Glocbalisre Resistance/IAWM/Socialist Alliance/ANL etc) People have to do what they can. The either / or argument I really don't agree with.
And the SP is not running only on the bin tax issue although it will be prominent. Activism and electoral activity can and do mix, obviously something like the armalite and ballot box is contradictory but no ones talking of that sort of activism! Again in the end we are operating in a society which by and large has accepted capitalism, the ideas of socialism let alone anarchism are not well known let alone supported. To ignore elections without any alternative (mass alternative) is ignoring the majority, and we won't change anything. In a different period its a different question but we live in the here and now, we need a mass movement rather than a subculture. I fear the anarchist movement is in danger of building a subculture, we need to work within society not outside it. I understand theargument but the statements like "The very act of going into a polling booth and putting a number or an X on a piece of paper is in itself an act of disempowerment, it is an acceptance that someone else has the right to make decisions on our behalf." is still very black and white, I personally never felt that way about voting or spoiling a vote. And it never stopped my involvement in anything else.

author by SP memberpublication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 14:38author address author phone Report this post to the editors

In reply to the following quote from James:

"Going on contributions from the floor in your summer debate with us, the SP regards representative democracy with some safe-guards such as average wage for reps, recallable representatives (actually I don’t recall that being mentioned but I presume youse subscribe to it) as being sufficient to usher in a stateless, classless society. "

In my opinion it is clear from this statement that James does not have any real understanding of what Marxism is really about, What the Marxist attitude to the state is or how a classless society can be built.

Anarchism regards the state as the fundemental problem and by smashing the state, capitalism will be destroyed. Marxist demands the overthrow of capitalism in order to destroy the state (a necessary part of the process).

The SP does not regard "representative" democracy as being sufficient to usher in a stateless, classless society. The revolutionary process of overthrowing capitalism will inevitably throw up many forms of democratic structures in order to create an alternative democratic process based not on "representative" democracy but on the "active democratic participation" of working class people. Socialism (be it libertarian or Marxist) is not a utopia and it will be impossible to a "perfect" society (even with the elimination of classes) where everyone will behave in a "perfect" libertarian fashion. It will be necessary for an active participatory democracy to exist. This will not take the form of a state but of a society.

What this arguement comes down to is pretty straight forward. What is the Marxist attitude to democracy and what is the anarchist attitude. Anarchism is based on attempting to create a consensus around a set of proposals. This can be done on a small scale, but it is inevitable that when we talk about the scale of involvement necessary for a revolution it is extremely unlikely that consensus will be achieved. In this case, if Anarchists are defeated in the "active" democratic process they will simply turn around and say "As anarchists we do not accept the authority of this process to tell us what to do and we are going to do what we believe is right ourselves". In reality the only conclusion that I can draw from this "logic" is that Anarchism is undemocratic and authoritarian.

author by Joepublication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 15:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

SP member reckons "it is clear from this statement that James does not have any real understanding of what Marxism is really about, What the Marxist attitude to the state is or how a classless society can be built." A very odd conclusion to draw as James was actually "Going on contributions from the floor in your summer debate with us". Which would mean if anything that the SP don't know what their own brand of "Marxism is really about"!

SP members goes on to say "Anarchism regards the state as the fundemental problem and by smashing the state, capitalism will be destroyed. Marxist demands the overthrow of capitalism in order to destroy the state"

So much for the old dialectical method then, SP member wants to return us to the old either you do A then B or you do B and then A. (Dualism I think?)

The historical anarchist understanding of anarchism is not in fact that the state is a bigger enemy then class society (eg capitalism) but that class society creates/re-enforces the state and the state in turn is a requirement for class society. You can't get rid of one or the other, as each alone can recreates the other (Soviet Russia being an obvious example of the (Bolshevik) state recreating a class society).

Or in other words the struggle against class society is the struggle against the state (and vice versa) or it is nothing.

The weird bit though is SP members discussion of "What is the Marxist attitude to democracy and what is the anarchist attitude."

He reckons "Anarchism is based on attempting to create a consensus around a set of proposals."

This is the weirdest definition of anarchism I have ever seen anywhere?!?! I'd LOVE to know where it comes from. Perhaps SP member has confused the love a few anarchists have for consensus based methods of internal decision making with the objective of all anarchists. But this is as weird as saying the objective of marxists is to write books on the economy! Or the objective of republicans is to wave green flags!

SP member if you want an actual example of an authoritarian response to workers democracy you need look no further then Lenin ordering Soviets dissolved in the summer of 1918 if they returned non-Bolshevik majorities. Or Trotskys response to one faction of the Bolshevik party who in 1921 throught a bit more democracy would be a good idea. He reckoned they "have made a fetish of democratic principles. They have placed the workers' right to elect representatives above the Party. As if the Party were not entitled to assert its dictatorship even if that dictatorship temporarily clashed with the passing moods of the workers' democracy !" Trotsky spoke of the "revolutionary historical birthright of the Party''. ''The Party is obliged to maintain its dictatorship . . . regardless of temporary vacillations even in the working class. . . The dictatorship does not base itself at every given moment on the formal principle of a workers' democracy. . . "

Related Link: http://www.geocities.com/WestHollywood/2163/bolintro.html
author by Anti-Capitalistpublication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 15:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

For making the front page.

That said, I'm still wondering whether it is the intention of the SP to run as part of the European Anti-Capitalist Left initiative?

author by trotwatchpublication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 16:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

People ought indeed ponder on what Trotsky said in regard to democracy and opposition within the Bolshevik Party and the Soviets. He was every bit as authoritarian and ruthless as Stalin. Only difference was that he lost the internal factional struggle and ended up as the victim, not that he didn't have a good innings himself when it came to suppressing his opponents. Anyone who thinks that the USSR would have been a nicer place had Saint Leon won is hopelessly naive. Because of that illusion Trotskyists still cling to the notion that dictatorship is a good thing. Sad part is that apart from the internal regimes of their own parties that they have never since had the opportunity to demonstrate how nice it is for a small unrepresentative group to impose its will on everyone else. I know for my own part that I certainly would not like to live in a country run by the SP or SWP Probably be soemthing similar to Geneva in the 1540s.

author by Not a member of SYpublication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 16:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Your question re European elections can't be fully answered. The Socialist Party has participated in a number of meetings in Europe which have been convened by the USFI in an attempt to get a Europe wide slate for the EU elections. It has not been possible to get a programmatic agreement between the various participants. The USFI, United Left (Portugal) and others are unwillingly to accept that the programme should argue for a socialist Europe. Rather they have been arguing for formulations for example like Alternative Europe. This is one example of many differences between the participants.
It now seems that the RC (Italy) have decided to run as part of the Communist Party slate.
I can't see the slate going ahead without the RC.
Also finally the Socialist Party will not participate in the slate unless it argues for a socialist Europe.

author by John Meehanpublication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 17:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

People interested in the EACL project can read the most recent relevant platform and the views of one USFI member, François Vercammen, at the link below.

Let's wait and see if an EACL joint platform can be constructed for the European Parliament Elections in 2004 - which would be a good thing - rather than rely on warmed up gossip from anonymous sources.

I have no idea if the CWI/SP will support such a platform - I hope they make a positive decision in favour of this initiative.

I do know that the Scottish Socialist Party, various left alliances in Europe such as the Portuguese Left Bloc, Danish Red-Green Alliance and the United Secretariat of the Fourth International support the proposal.

Let me add that I think the lead article on the left and elections, written by an SP supporter, is a very good thoughtful contribution to a necessary debate.

http://www.3bh.org.uk/IV/main/IV353/IV353%2001.htm

Related Link: http://www.3bh.org.uk/IV/main/IV353/IV353%2001.htm
author by Bobby Digitalpublication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 17:09author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Socialist Party has been attending the most recent European Conferences of the Anti-Capitalist Left.

The discussions around a common cross-europe slate between the Socialist Party, SSP, LCR etc are still ongoing. No decision has even been made that there will certainly be such a slate, let alone about which organisations precisely will be involved.

It appears that Rifondazione Communista, after taking part in much of the earlier discussion, have decided not to support such a slate and will be taking part in a Stalinist slate involving the remnants of the European Communist Parties.

All of this information is already in the public domain. You can find a report of the most recent on the website of the USFI's English language magazine.

author by Trotskyistpublication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 17:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

John Meehan, why won't you call for a Socialist Europe? My experienve of the USFI in Ireland has been awful. They are involved in liberal campaigns whitout raising socialist ideas or criticising liberal/petty bourgeois ideas. It's my experience that the USFI in Ireland throw themselves into any liberal and broad campaign without raising their identity or their ideas! I even believe that one of your members, as a USFI member, was in Plaid Cymru when he lived in Wales!

Outside Ireland the USFI have joined Capitalist Governments! In Brazil for example. Although many people have illusions in Lula, it should be understood that he is far from a workers' revolutionary! he is a reformist workers leader that is mildly anti capitalist.

John Meehan, why did the USFI go into capitalist government? There are workers now moving into struggle against your Party!! And John, what's with the dissolutionism of the Irish section? Do Paris know about your work? if not, why not? Finally can you blame the CWI for not entering into a deal with these boys when they refuse to call for a socialist Europe.

author by Anti-Capitalistpublication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 17:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thanks for that! Although why you had to make clear that you were not an SY member, when I never implied that you were, I'll leave for you to ponder (its way over my head).

"Your question re European elections can't be fully answered. The Socialist Party has participated in a number of meetings in Europe which have been convened by the USFI in an attempt to get a Europe wide slate for the EU elections."

It was my understanding that 'the European Anti-Capitalist Left was initiated in March 2000 (first conference in Lisbon) by the Red-Green Alliance (Denmark), the Left Bloc (Portugal), the Scottish Socialist Party and the Ligue communiste révolutionnaire (France), their objective to unite the radical left on the European scale on the basis of debate, pluralism and cooperation, so as to build a European political alternative to the parties of neoliberal social democracy.' So not purely a USFI initiative then.

"It has not been possible to get a programmatic agreement between the various participants. The USFI, United Left (Portugal) and others are unwillingly to accept that the programme should argue for a socialist Europe. Rather they have been arguing for formulations for example like Alternative Europe. This is one example of many differences between the participants."

Their last statement in Athens stated
"For this purpose all anti-capitalist measures must be taken that are needed to control and, if necessary, expropriate private property and transform it into social, public property. Another Europe is possible: social, democratic, egalitarian, ecological, internationalist-a SOCIALIST (my emphasis added) Europe!"

"It now seems that the RC (Italy) have decided to run as part of the Communist Party slate. I can't see the slate going ahead without the RC."

This I wasn't aware of. Where's your evidence? Did something happen at the November meeting in Paris that moved away from what was agreed in June?

"Also finally the Socialist Party will not participate in the slate unless it argues for a socialist Europe."

It seems to me that it already does.

author by SP/CWI memberpublication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 17:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It is not 'the Socialist Party' that will be taking part in the 'European Slate'. In Ireland the CWI section is called 'the Socialist Party'. The decision to join into a Europe wide election slate will be a decision made by and discussed by all members of the Committee for a Workers' International in Europe. It is not for the Irish section to participate (or not) against the wishes of our comrades elsewhere. The only reason these punters approached us was because the SP have parliamentry representation - having a recognized slate requires the participants to be represented in Parliaments.

author by Anti-Capitalistpublication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 17:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

As Tom Cruise said to Jack Nicholson in A few good man and with the same emphasis.

CRYSTAL

author by Irish voterpublication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 17:38author address author phone Report this post to the editors

As a member of the Irish electorate who would like to see his preferred candidate run as part of wider bloc, it would seem that the decision for this will probably be taken in London. Very democratic!!

Any SWP people on here? If you are running a candidate, are you going to be part of this initiative so that I don't feel that my number one will be totally wasted on those who to parpaphrase another seem to think that they are developing the chemically pure "revolutionary party". It would seem that the CWI on an international scale are the caricature of the shadowdy Trotskyist group with little internal democracy.

"It is not for the Irish section to participate (or not) against the wishes of our comrades elsewhere."

So the Irish section voted for Maggies boys in the Malvinas then?

author by Bobby Digitalpublication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 18:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

To make this clear:

No decisions have been made about ANYTHING.

It has not been decided if there will definitely be a European Anti-Capitalist Left slate at all.

It has not been decided what platform such a slate will stand on.

It has not been decided if the Socialist Party will participate in such a slate if comes into existence.

The only decision that appears to have been definitely made (and I am open to correction on this part) is that Rifondazione will be standing as part of a Stalinist Communist Party slate. That makes the putting together of a serious EACL slate more difficult as it removes the one really mass party involved from the equation.

There are ongoing discussions between the SSP, Socialist Party, LCR etc on whether or not they can reach agreement on putting together a slate. But once again, NOTHING has yet been decided.

author by Jamespublication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 18:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors

SPers were clear during the summer debate that a “representative” state was necessary. They talked about it being more democratic and inclusive but were short on details. Sp member’s view that “active participation” is required to usher in a new society is welcome though you appear to be going beyond the party position on this.

Where does your view leave the state though? A state is inherently designed to be a vehicle for rule by minority. In Marxist thought this minority has been seen as the party leadership, which will temporarily rule and until communism is achieved and both the state and the party wither away.

The relevant question here is what happens if, during this transitional period, there is a conflict between the state – namely that hierarchal bureaucratic machine we know so well - and the organs of active participation, call them soviets.
Joe’s quotes indicate what the Bolsheviks thought: The state was to prevail.
Is that the SP view?
If not, then what is the possible use for the state given there are appropriate institutions to run society?

Your comments on consensus and anarchism are both strange and wrong; if we lose the arguements we lose: we aren't going to impose our views on others even if we ourselves refuse to participate in the structures.

To hs: it is true that things aren’t black and white, which is why I try appreciate the arguments for participating in state structures and your quote is not the sum total of our arguments against taking part. However, I guess from the anarchist position, the pros are outweighed by the cons.

me long talk on anarchy and marxism, lots on the state: http://www.indymedia.ie/newswire.php?story_id=60525&time_posted_upper_limit=1059019200&time_posted_lower_limit=1058932800

recent exchange on elections http://www.indymedia.ie/newswire.php?story_id=62331#comment53914

author by Day of the EACLpublication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 18:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It is up to the Socialist Party to decide if they stand a candidate and if they choose to stand in alliance with other forces at home or abroad.

It is up to you whether or not you vote for them. You can vote for someone else or you can stand yourself if you like. You don't have any input into their decision though, and why would you have?

author by Day Of The Jackalpublication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 18:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Its up to Peter Toffe and the CWI leadership to decide whether or the SP will enter into alliances. Your orders come from London, trying objecting to that and you will end up thrown out like John Throne or sidelined like Dermot Connolly.

author by Eoin - SP (personal capacity)publication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 18:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"A state is inherently designed to be a vehicle for rule by minority. In Marxist thought this minority has been seen as the party leadership, which will temporarily rule and until communism is achieved and both the state and the party wither away."

You are missing the whole point here, James. This is an anarchist attack on what Marxists say, it isn't what Marxists actually say.

Marxists argue that the capitalist state (like the feudal state) is an instrument for the suppression of the majority by a minority. That's why the working class can't just take over the existing state apparatus.

Instead we have to create our own, workers state. A workers state is an instrument for the rule of the working class - the great majority - over a small minority. As such its structures would have to be radically different from all previously existing states.

That rule, not of "the party" but of the great majority of the population, would be much more democratic than any of the states that have existed to enable a small minority to rule but it would still be a state. As such it is ultimately undesirable. We aim for a classless, stateless society.

The workers state exists when we have destroyed capitalist rule but have not yet reached that classless society. That transformation is a process, not an instant - and in many ways the understanding that class-divided society and all of its problems won't just disappear the day after we storm the Bastille is one of the most fundamental differences between Marxism and the form of utopianism known as anarchism.

author by Irish Voter (now confused)publication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 18:34author address author phone Report this post to the editors

You (Day of the EACL) say it is up to the SP who runs.

SP/CWI says that it won't be a decision of the SP but a decison of the CWI.

Which is it?

And what a conceited fuck you are with your
"You don't have any input into their decision though, and why would you have?"

I have a decision to make in June or does winning people over to your ideas not matter?
QED Another perfect example of the chemically pure revolutionary. Best of luck with the ones and twos just make sure you are not losing them in fours and fives.

author by Day of the EACLpublication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 18:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Nothing conceited about it at all. I'm not in the SP. I don't expect to get a voice in their decisions. If I wanted such a voice I would join them.

If they want to stand, that's their business. If they want to stand in a broad alliance in Ireland that's also their business. If they want to stand in alliance with a load of European parties that's also their business.

Depending on who else is standing, I might vote for them. Alternatively I might not bother to vote at all.

Either way I just cant understand why some anonymous moaner on a website should think that he or she should have a voice in another group's decisions. Stand yourself if you want. Try to build an alliance if you want. But I can't see that stamping your foot and sulking because a group makes its own decision is particularly worthwhile. That really is conceit.

author by !publication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 18:45author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"some anonymous moaner "

You just described yourself.

author by hs - sppublication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 18:59author address author phone Report this post to the editors

just on the cwi sp thing that is being a little badly put, the socialist party doesn't take "orders" from London about whether to stand, it enters in discussion with comrades in all european countries and a collective decision can be made. obviously the cwi can't force the sp to do anything. You can't have it both ways, either we run an international organisation or a national one.
Of course there will be differences and obviously the cwi can't "force" an section to do anything. And if any section or part of any section really disagrees they can leave (and have done). I wouldn't over dramatise the point.

author by Day of the EACLpublication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 19:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'm not anonymously moaning that some left wing group isn't consulting anonymous little ol' me about their decisions. I'm just anonymously entertained by someone moaning about it.

If I wanted a voice in the SP's decisions (and I don't) I would join them. If I just wanted to influence them in a particular direction on a particular issue I would contact them and ask to discuss that issue with them. Again, I don't.

Anonymous moaning isn't a useful strategy for anything much.

author by Jamespublication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 19:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Well, to be grouchy, I didn’t miss the point; this is a new one for the thread :)
I agree that transformation takes time, I just don’t think a minority should have authority to implement it.
>That rule, not of "the party" but of the great majority of the population, would be much more democratic than any of the states that have existed to enable a small >minority to rule but it would still be a state.
Why call it a state? What characteristics does it share with states as we know them? There’s lots to be written about states, but one of the defining features for anarchists is that they are a vehicle for MINORITY rule. Marxists have always been somewhat ambiguous when it comes to the state. What it is and what to do with it.
Marxists agree with us that this is the case at the moment. However, as far as I can tell, they somewhat confusingly use the same word to describe desired post-capitalist institutions. The ambiguity has generally fallen away to mean party rule in practice. If the Socialist Party reject this, then that’s great!

Let’s use an example from the past: I presume, given your comments, that you would reject the Bolshevik taking of power in 1917? Because that was party rule and not active participation in running society.
In practice the "anarchist attack on what Marxists say" has proven to be a more accurate description of what transpired than "what Marxists actually say". Especially the critique of the withering away bit; that doesn't happen, you just get a party dictatorship.

author by Eoin - SP (personal capacity)publication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 19:46author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Sorry James, but I'm not going to get into the historical discussion about 1917 with you right now. It's one of my favourites and all but let's try to restrain ourselves to derailing this thread one train at a time!

Marxists are very clear about their view of the state. It is the instrument by which one class rules over another.

All states to this point have been instruments for the rule of small exploiting classes over the great majority of the population.

In the revolutionary process it will be necessary for the working class - the great majority - to enforce their will on the minority who will try to overthrow the revolution. Whatever apparatus they will need to do that enforcing is by definition a state.

Such a state will have to be dramatically different from the states of exploitative classes because it would be the tool of the many to preserve and deepen their revolution rather than the tool of the few to exploit the many. But it is still fundamentally the apparatus used by a class to impose its rule.

The logic of what I am saying is that immediately after the revolution, there will still be classes and the problems of racism, criminality, sexism etc inherent to class society will not just disappear over night.

As the revolutionary process unfolds towards a genuinely classless society, then too does the need for an instrument of class rule disappear.

That is the basic Marxist view of the state.

The thing is that I think that some people who consider themselves anarchists actually agree with most of that except that they are so allergic to the idea of a state that they end up with all kinds of confusion.

Do you think for instance that after the revolution that the working class will for a time have to enforce the revolutionary change on the old capitalists and their remaining allies, or do you think that such remnants will shrug and say, "ok, ladies and gents, its a fair cop, show me to the collectivise bakery"?

If you think that some kind of defence of the revolution is necessary, what apparatus will be needed? A military of some sort?

And what could such a military be other than part of a state?

author by Phuq Heddpublication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 20:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It's appropriate to mention the history of the Russian Revolution etc because it shows that your assertion that there will be an "unfolding" or "evolution" from the initial Dictatorship of the Proletariat into some other form is just not _true_.

If you provide an UNdemocratic apparatus then it can, has been and will be seized by new classes that use it to propagate their rule.

The solution is to adopt the seemingly risky strategy of creating a democratic structure.

author by not very interested in partisan politicspublication date Wed Dec 03, 2003 03:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

A very constructive article. And (some, obviously) interesting responses. I would like to push the main theme, that of constructive participation in the mainstream political arena, a little further. Beyond the principles of anarchism(as I understand them) there are factors that are relevant to engaging with the population on a larger scale that necessitate adaption of these principles. It is not a matter of compromising principles but rather taking a contemporary perspective.

Obviously, the parliamentary democratic system is a nonsense, but the majority of people ( if you add non voters to the legally disenfranchised and include the significant number who feel morally obliged to vote) also think this. Giving them (at least those that can) the ability to express this in terms that are universally understood would be a fruitful exercise. Would it not be interesting to see the level of actual support for the notion that it is all a sham in officially tallied, published and 'internationally recognised' results.

There are historical precedents, in the history of this island, where the legitimacy of a parliament has not been acknowledged by those standing for elections. So the concept of abstentionism is understood politically by the public. Therefore it is not difficult to make the case for electoral support without compromising your principles.

It would obviously be a wasteful use of time and resourses to engage in 'electioneering' which should be spent on real issue campaigning? The view that it has to be one or the other is a rather, though. The ability to combine the two is not inconcievable. It would be possible, while campaigning for the given issues, to associate a 'candidate' standing in the election (say, by an advertisment on the top of the relevant literature) and no energy need be wasted, save a little design and DTP. Leading by example, electioneering by deed, as it were.

I understand it is difficult to resolve the necessity of putting forward an individual as a 'candidate', within the strict anti-hierarchical working structures. But some sort of arbitrary selection process could be used. If you do truely believe the instiution to be bogus then it can't be that hard to adhere to a non-participatory policy, thereby nullifying any corrupting effect.

And I know the single-issue-personality-candidate has been the one who has been the most sucessful in how the 'left' has achieved electoral success up until now. But FF are as relevant to anarchists in terms of the issue of the legitimacy of, and stratagy for, parliament as SP and the like (if not in other areas). Most FF candidates are faceless goons, with no political ability whatsoever, they merely get elected on the basis that they represent the values of cronyism and conservatism, which they, by association represent. So its not necessary to distract yourself with the focus on personallity. People are capable of making their decisions based on an agenda and numbering the party box.

My point is that the scope of actual issues being dealt with are seriously limited by the lack of participation by anything remotely approaching a 'mass' of people. The areas that can be addressed by the anarchist perspective are literally infinite. But they cannot be dealt with unless people are exposed to the potential of this perspective in relation to what effects them. Working on isolated issues is necessary but there needs to be a movement towards a broader public agenda which brings it all together. A broad public agenda necessarily requires broad public input. Avenues for accessing a wider base are limited by the state and corporate control. Every avenue should be explored. And you can't escape the fact that many people consider participatory politics only in terms of traditional elections. This is obviously, again because of the state propaganda. But you have to work within the societal norms and mechanisms in which you find yourself. No?

author by Jamespublication date Wed Dec 03, 2003 12:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

First off, belated respect to hs for a very well written article; should have said it earlier!

Eoin: “Do you think for instance that after the revolution that the working class will for a time have to enforce the revolutionary change on the old capitalists and their remaining allies, or do you think that such remnants will shrug and say, "ok, ladies and gents, its a fair cop, show me to the collectivise bakery"?”
Well, the owners don’t have to collectivise it. Hopefully, if the revolution has impacted at all on people’s consciousness the workers will be doing it themselves. If the previous owners want to join in on an equal basis, then great. If they don’t that’s fine. If they try and impose their will on the workers again the workers have the right to defend their gains. And to call on fellow workers to help them. A hierarchical structure controlled by a minority is not necessary for the workers to do this.

Eoin: “The logic of what I am saying is that immediately after the revolution, there will still be classes and the problems of racism, criminality, sexism etc inherent to class society will not just disappear over night.”
This is probably unfortunate truth. Don’t see what a state has to offer by way of solving these problems though.

Eoin: “In the revolutionary process it will be necessary for the working class - the great majority - to enforce their will on the minority who will try to overthrow the revolution. Whatever apparatus they will need to do that enforcing is by definition a state.”
I wouldn’t agree with that definition; too broad. Any apparatus which uses force, even in self-defence would constitute a state by this definition.
Anarchists consider a state to be a vehicle for minority rule. If the institutions aren’t under the control of a minority then it would lack one of the essential characteristics – there are others - of a state. Anarchists have used a democratic militia system to defend gains made in revolutions.

It may be that Marxists are attracted to anarchist analysis and that differences are largely semantic. Not hugely important, though the anarchist use of language seems to me to be more advantageous as it avoids association with existing concept of what a state is and the ‘socialist’ states of the Bolshevik era. It’s hard to believe that 130 years of division is caused by us talking across each other; that’s another reason why discussions on Russia are important: they clarify what can be quite theoretical discussions.

But let us assume we mean the same thing though we use different words. Anarchists and Marxists both want mass participation in running society. Marxists call this a state. Now how will this ‘mass participation’ be structured? Will it be on the basis of direct democracy in the workplace and the community, with areas and industries federating on a voluntary basis? Mandated and recallable delegates to facilitate wider decision making?
Or will the workers’ state operate on the basis of representative democracy? That is, will the ‘mass who participate’ elect leaders to decide centrally what to do?
I understand mainstream Marxist position to be the latter. This doesn’t constitute a problem while the views of the leaders are in line with the views in the community councils/soviets – bodies which will probably be thrown up in some form in any half-decent revolution. However, when differences of opinion arise between the mass participatory councils and the leaders of the state, what happens? Also the state has traditionally comprised a hierarchical bureaucratic structure, with a monopoly of armed force.
The reason I brought up the Russian Revolution was that it’s a concrete example of the question I’m asking. But I’ll rephrase it in a hypothetical way: Is it Socialist Party policy that they would like to possess - through a form of representative democracy - state power after the capitalists have been chased away? Will the SP take control of the upper echelons of the state apparatus in the interests of defending a revolution?

If the answer is ‘yes’, then mass participation is necessarily limited. If the goal is to maximise mass participation, then obviously a minority occupying positions of authority over others is a hindrance to this. It might be a terrible necessity, but it isn’t conducive to mass participation. I haven’t yet seen orthodox Marxists reject the taking of state power by themselves. It would be an interesting development in their thinking if they do.

author by 2legsgoodpublication date Wed Dec 03, 2003 12:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

>Marxists are very clear about their view of
>the state. It is the instrument by which one
>class rules over another.
>All states to this point have been
>instruments for the rule of small exploiting
>classes over the great majority of the
>population.

>In the revolutionary process it will be
>necessary for the working class - the great
>majority - to enforce their will on the minority
>who will try to overthrow the revolution.
>Whatever apparatus they will need to do that
>enforcing is by definition a state.

You see this is where the problem lies. Your supposition is that post revolution a state will be run by the working class. Problem with this is that any state is actually run on behalf of a class by a small group not by all members of that class. Even our current states do not please all capitalists just the ones who are in power and their chums.

This problem is further exacerbated in a state run on behalf of the working class as the working class are much larger in number. Instead of a state run by the working class we end up with state run by a small number who think they know whats good for the working class, and have been given power to rule over their comrades.

Now perhaps this state could function adequately for the working class if all its decisions were taken at the lowest effective level by mandated delegates (not reps) of various communes and collectives (not a state to my mind but I'll humour you). However given the history of marxist party organisation and the what I believe are the current structures of the the SP and SWP I find it hard to image that any maxrist party would usher in anything other than a state based on plenipoteniary representatives and democratic centralism. This system would almost definitely ensure not the removal of class society but its further entrenchment in a new form, as born out by its history.

If you could convince me otherwise I'd be amazed.

author by Historianpublication date Wed Dec 03, 2003 14:11author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Do you not think that Marx changed his views of the state after the Paris commune.

What Engels and Lenin wrote afterwards does not make it Marxist.

author by hs - sppublication date Wed Dec 03, 2003 16:42author address author phone Report this post to the editors

One point on the idea of the state (or whatever we call it). I think the anarchist analysis could only be correct if the revolution took place at the same time all over the world. This I do not believe is possible, it will start somewhere and will be attacked and undermined by surronding capitalists states. Some sort of structure is needed to defend this. Also we must remember that capitalism is much more than a simple ideology it will never disappear overnight.

author by 2legsgoodpublication date Wed Dec 03, 2003 16:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

>it will start somewhere and will be attacked
>and undermined by surronding capitalists
>states. Some sort of structure is needed to >defend this.

Yes I agree wholeheartedly, but why does this structure have to follow democratic centralist lines?

Why must the structure place power in the hands of a few?

If the instigation of the revolution has been executed successfully then workers councils communes and collectives will be present in some form even if embryonic, why can these not be the structure used for decision making and defense. Why is party dicatorship required at this stage, I see no merit to it, except to disempower the workers which is ultimately what will destroy any revolution from the inside.

author by Raypublication date Wed Dec 03, 2003 17:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Both James and 2legsgood have asked an important question here. Both anarchists and Marxists say that there will be some form of social organisation after the revolution, and if (as hs argues) the revolution is not simultaneous, then there will be a need to organise to defend this revolution. There will also be a need to organise against racism, sexism, criminality, etc.
The question is not whether we call this form of organisation a 'state'. Its whether this organisation will be from below, or from above. Will it take the form of mandated, recallable delegates (as the anarchists argue) or will it take the form of a - possibly elected - central leadership, with the power to make and enforce laws?
Whatever term we use to describe it, the problem with the second form of organisation is that power is in the hands of a minority. And so this structure cannot be described as 'the majority enforcing their will on the minority'. It can only be a minority, enforcing their will of a majority. This minority, this new ruling class, may claim to be acting in the interests of the majority. They may even believe it (and may believe that they have 'earned' the right to rule, because of their years of struggle). But they are still a minority. They are not the working class itself, but a section of the class substituting itself for the whole (and in so doing separating itself from the class).
So this is the question for the SP (and anyone else). Do you want to IMMEDIATELY replace the capitalist state with a directly democratic system, involving mandated and recallable delegates? Or do you want to maintain a top-down form of organisation, replacing only the people at the top? And why?

author by hs - sppublication date Wed Dec 03, 2003 17:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

the "structure" or state should be run by recallable delegates wherever possible in councils. When I say wherever possible I mean war etc.
But the theme of the article is that standing in elections now when the left is miniscule and there is little knowledge or support for socialism does not exclude anyone from having these views.

The conversation has gone again to the far future and the concept of what anarchists or socialists "would" do during and after a revolution.

With differing opinions. But as in all things theory and practice are very different things.

Standing in elections now doesn't really prevent either possiblity except it may go towards building a bigger movement.

The theory of taking part in elections making you an authoritarian etc I don't believe it, it is too black and white and either/or. Standing in elections I think is about building a movement (a real movement) as I said just one part of it. A tiny minority can debate all day long about the differences between idelogies but if it remains a tiny minority nothing will change. The debate of anarchism versus marxism often presumes things are permanent and no one will ever change their mind. (this seems to be on both sides). And often can decend into very difficult debates in which you need to have studied in detail, the history of Russia and Spain, because anarchists can suffer as much from selective memory as marxists!!!!

author by 2legsgoodpublication date Wed Dec 03, 2003 17:33author address author phone Report this post to the editors

With fairness HS, I know the thread has deviated somewhat from the original article but you are sidestepping the question just posed.

You can't just dismiss it by saying its the "far future". If any of us are successful it will be because our organisational methods and actions now will affect this "far future".

So once again why does a post revolutionary social stucture need to be based on democratic centralism?

On the other issue I agree that there may be reasons for standing in elections now, it is not necessarily a waste of time or a black and white issue, although I do think its largely futile, and counterproductive towards evangelising other more democratic forms of organisation.

author by Eoin - SP (personal capacity)publication date Wed Dec 03, 2003 17:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I agree that good points have been raised, and I really don't have time to answer them all at the moment.

To respond to the broad strokes of Ray's question with some broad strokes of my own:

The workers state that the Socialist Party wants to see exist immediately after (and during!) a revolution would be organised through workers councils on a local, regional, national and international level.

These would start with bodies consisting of everybody in a locality or a workplace. Those bodies would elect delegates to councils covering a bigger area and so on.

From a Marxist perspective, if these bodies have the power to enforce their democratic decisions on minorities who disagree with them, like for example the old capitalist class and their remaining hangers on, then they are by definion a state.

Multiple "parties" (used here as a shorthand for all political organisations, including those that would object to the label) would freely contend within this democratic structure.

Where I see a first major point of disagreement is in the insistence on the word "mandated" by Ray. All delegates would have to be subject to instant recall and it would have to be possible to have a mandate placed upon them if those they represent so choose, but it is plainly impossible for every decision to be individually mandated unless the entire population of the world is to spend every minute in deliberations. This practical limitation inherently introduces a degree of representation into the structure.

A second possible point of disagreement comes around the issue of the enforcement of decisions on minorities. If these councils don't have the power to insist on their democratic decisions being binding then neither they nor the revolution are going to last very long. If I recall correctly, the Marxism versus Anarchism debate at the Socialist Youth festival saw some disagreement around this very issue.

A third point of disagreement comes around the need for the revolution to be international. Marxists are all too aware of the fate that isolation and siege will bring to any revolutionary situation - bureaucratisation and degeneration. It is not possible for a local or even a national overthrow of capitalism to survive indefinitely and the longer it does so the more prone to bureaucratisation and degeneration it will become. For Marxists the revolution is by definition international. I am not sure of the anarchist view on this. I have seen some anarchists argue along similar lines, but I have also seen anarchists talk in much more localistic terms. Clarification here would be appreciated.

author by Raypublication date Wed Dec 03, 2003 17:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"the "structure" or state should be run by recallable delegates wherever possible in councils. When I say wherever possible I mean war etc. "

But this is where anarchists point out that this is not what marxists have done in the past, and is not what you do right now, so why should we expect things to be any different in the future?
In the past, the Bolsheviks never paid more than lip service to the idea of society being organized by recallable delegates. They choose a centralised structure from the very beginning - long before the start of the civil war. Sure, that's in the past, but its an element of the past that is never criticised by the marxist groups.
Those same marxist groups, when they organise here and now, don't use recallable delegates. This is true of their political organisations - the SP and SWP both have a central leadership, rather than a delegate structure - and the campaigns they join/take part in - every campaign I know of with an SP or SWP presence is run by a committee.

Its obvious enough that anarchists aren't going to take your desire for recallable delegates very seriously. What I'm wondering is why YOU don't see any contradiction between your present practice and your future aspirations.


"But the theme of the article is that standing in elections now when the left is miniscule and there is little knowledge or support for socialism does not exclude anyone from having these views"

The question is, why take part in an institution whose very basis you disagree with? Especially since this can't help but lead to confusion among your supporters (and your members). Why spend most of the life of your organisation supporting a centralised top-down sort of organisation, when you intend to abolish it as soon as the revolution arrives? Do you not see a problem with this?

author by Eoin - SP (personal capacity)publication date Wed Dec 03, 2003 18:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Socialist Party does not have a delegate structure. Instead we elect leadership bodies at regional and national level. Our structure could be described as "democratic centralist", although due to the term's unfortunate association with both Stalinist organisations and a wide range of other less then savoury organisations, we tend not to use the term very often. Some of our sister parties around the world have even formally dropped the term for exactly that reason.

Our "democratic centralism" comes down to two principles - freedom of discussion and unity in action. This is a structure appropriate for an instrument of struggle within a capitalist society. It is designed to make us as effective and efficient as we possibly can be.

This is not an appropriate model to use in the organisation of a socialist society. We have many times stated that a revolutionary organisation is not a new society in microcosm.

If we were interested in trying to create socialism on a small scale within capitalism we would be involved in trying to set up communes. We aren't. We are interested in organising as effectively as we can for a socialist revolution.

I am left wondering why anyone would think that we would be under the impression that the forms of organisation needed for (a) a revolutionary group struggling against capitalism and (b) a whole post-revolutionary society would be identical?

author by Raypublication date Wed Dec 03, 2003 18:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Because if you want to build a free society you need all the practice you can get.
The danger in adopting a more effective (highly arguable) form of organisation in the short term is that you become wedded to it. So "Yes, we intend to switch to a more democratic form of organisation after the revolution"
becomes "yes, we intend to switch to a more democratic form of organisation, once this short transitionary period is over"
becomes "Yes, we intend to switch to a more democratic form of organisation after the civil war. In the meantime, we're reintroducing court-martials as a temporary measure"
becomes "Yes, we intend to switch to a more democratic form of organisation once we have increased industrial production. In the meantime, unions are illegal."
becomes "Yes, we intend to switch to a more democratic form of organisation once we have ironed out a few problems. In the meantime, you won't be needing that ballot paper"
becomes "Shut up and get back to work" with remarkable speed.

Of course, you say that will never happen again. but why should we believe that since 1. it happens every time, and 2. you ALREADY believe democracy is inefficient, and should be sacrificed to inefficiency even at the best of times.

author by Joepublication date Wed Dec 03, 2003 18:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Eoin the problem here is that like anarchists you insist you want society ran by elected re-callable delegates.

BUT

1. Leninism in power explicitly smashed such a model in favour of a top down one

2. The SP do not organise internally in such a fashion, not do they argue for such methods in the struggle they are involved in

3. (what you call) Marxist theory explicity rejects delegate organisations and mandates. Lenin himself said that "always from below" was an anarchist principle (he was obviously arguing against it).

In that context its hard to take what you say as anything but electioneering/saying what you reckon people want to hear. In particular as you also claim to be in the Bolshevik tradition.

author by Eoin - Sp (personal capacity)publication date Wed Dec 03, 2003 18:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Again, Ray, you are confusing two different issues.

It is not a question of "shifting" forms of organisation after a revolution. Different forms of organisation are appropriate for different ends in different situations.

For instance, the Socialist Party would never propose that the democratic centralist structure we use to organise our party should be used to organise a single issue campaign.

We normally prefer a much looser structure in a campaign, often with an elected steering committee balanced by activist meetings.

Why do we look to a different form of organisation in those circumstances to the one we choose to organise our party on? Because we are trying to achieve different things.

A post-revolutionary society would obviously not be usefully organised in the same way that an instrument of struggle against capitalism should be. The context and ends to be achieved would be drastically different.

We do not argue that "democracy is inefficient". The Socialist Party is a democratic organisation. The particular form of democracy we operate is determined by circumstances.

As for whether or not democratic centralism is a more effective way to organise, I don't think that it is possible to seriously argue that even organisations operating a parody of democratic centralism (like the SWP or the Stalinists) have done anything other than punch above their organisational weight.

I have to go now, but I note that you haven't addressed any of the points of disagreement about the nature of a post-revolutionary situation above.

author by john throne - labors militant voicepublication date Wed Dec 03, 2003 23:24author email loughfinn at aol dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

It seems to me that the central issue involved in running in elections or not running in elections is not being mentioned. The struggle to end capitalism is the struggle for the consciousness of the working class. Capitalism with its massive propaganda machine, with its control of the economy and the state seeks to keep the working class convinced that it cannot change the world, seeks to keep the working class cowed. Revolutionaries, anarchists and marxists alike have to do battle with capitalism for the consciousness of the working class. We have to fight to help the working class see that it can change the world, that it can build a new society. Of course the day to day experience of the working class is crucial to achieving this task but so is the interventions of the revolutionaries.

The question of running in elections has to be determined therefore by what takes forward the struggle for the consciousness of the working class. Bourgeois elections constitute mass dialogue if a somewhat restricted one, they represent a discussion in society over what policies should be carried out. Revolutionaries have a responsibility to participate in this dialogue, this debate. That is until the working class is in a position to create a society based on workers councils as an alternative to the present state. When this becomes a reality then to run in bourgeois elections would be to drag the movement backwards.

The comrade who started this debate participated in another debate on indymedia with me. Unfortunately this stopped rather abruptly. We were discussing the local committees that are fighting against the bin charges. I have been advocating that these should be seen as foundations on which to build local committees to fight on all the day to day issues of the working class. This brother was not able to get back to me when I asked him what was the position of the SP on these committees, that is keeping them going and developing them. I would be interested to know. While running in bourgeois elections the revolutionary forces must always be seeking to develop and build workers committees through which the working class can fight for its interests.

John Throne.

Related Link: http://laborsmilitantvoice.com
author by Jamespublication date Thu Dec 04, 2003 11:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I asked this specific question a bit above in the thread. It's one thing the SP should definitely know, so I'd be interested in the answer.
Is it Socialist Party policy that they would like to possess - through a form of representative democracy - state power after the capitalists have been chased away? Will the SP take control of the upper echelons of the state apparatus in the interests of defending a revolution?

It has implications for electioneering. Presumably SPs would be honest to people on the doorsteps and say whether they are or aren't interested in assuming state power; whether they think that if elected they can make a difference.

author by Jeffrey Wigandpublication date Thu Dec 04, 2003 12:33author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"We were discussing the local committees that are fighting against the bin charges. I have been advocating that these should be seen as foundations on which to build local committees to fight on all the day to day issues of the working class. This brother was not able to get back to me when I asked him what was the position of the SP on these committees, that is keeping them going and developing them. I would be interested to know. "

The reason why the brother didn't answer you was probably because the answer he would like to give you, would not be the truth.
The truth is that the SP (with the exception of Fingal, where the SP was in effect a monopoly) used the other committees. They came to meetings with 'the plan' already worked out. Some work was attempted in trying to win the 'micro groups' over to this 'correct plan', usually by a caucus meeting beforehand. The role of the 'micro group' was then to be the conduit to push the 'correct plan', those not in agreement with the 'correct plan' were reformers or electoral opportunists.
So to answer your question were the local committees seen as foundations on which to build local committees to fight on all the day to day issues of the working class. The answer is a resounding NO - the local committees were seen as a foundation on which to build the SP.

author by Stephen Boyd - Socialist partypublication date Thu Dec 04, 2003 14:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

John Throne lives in Chicago and therefore has an excuse for his ignorance of the current political situation in Ireland, what is your excuse "Jeffrey Wigand"?
If either of you were actually involved in the anti-bin tax campaign then you would know that the Socialist Party along with what you insultingly call the micro-groups have been to the forefront of building the campaign in an open and democratic way.
The Socialist Party alongside organisations such as Working Class Action, the ISN, the WSM and numerous individual activists have had to consistently fight a battle with the conservative elements in this campaign on the question of democracy and to build and expand it into the communities.
Much as already been written on the question of the tactics of the campaign, but again it has been the Socialist Party and other genuine campaigners who have taken on the SWP and their fellow travelers. We have faced consistent opposition to the campaign pursuing the tactic of community based direct action in opposition to those who wrongly placed all of their "faith" in other forces solving this problem for them. Firstly they argued that the bourgeois politicians would vote out the tax at last years estimates meetings. Then they argued that the tax could be defeated in the courts, then that it could be defeated at next years local elections and more recently that the bin workers would refuse to implement non-collection and solve the problem! All of these arguments have been put forward because the SWP and their fellow travelers don’t believe that it’s possible to build a mass campaign of opposition to the bin tax. They have faith in the courts and the bourgeois politicians – they have no faith in the working class.
If the campaign in Fingal had not fought to build a campaign of opposition to non-collection based on community direct action i.e. blockades, then the anti-bin tax campaign would have been defeated in September. The campaign in Fingal has suffered a serious setback. This setback is not due to the tactics of the campaign. The Fingal campaign has fought a Trojan battle. In the context of the "lack" of significant struggle in Ireland in the last 15 years, the Fingal Anti-Bin Tax Campaign stands out as a shinning example of working class people taking on the Government, the state, the media and all of the establishment parties. There are too many examples to give of the heroic efforts that have been made so far by the working class in Dublin North and Dublin West. One example that disproves your nonsense and shows the democratic and inclusiveness of the campaign is the seizing and holding of the bin trucks. The communities in Royal Oak (Santry), Rivervalley (Swords) and Melrose seized bin trucks. In Santry the community, despite being threatened with imprisonment held the truck for two weeks organising a 24 hour a day rota to insure that the Council couldn’t reclaim it. Your comments imply that the Socialist Party has pursued a conspiratorial agenda, which is not inclusive and doesn’t aim to involve as many residents and activists as possible. If that was the case then how do you explain what happened in Santry? How do you explain that on some days up to 10 bin trucks were blockaded in communities? How do you explain that the blockading of bin trucks in Fingal took place on a daily basis for nearly two months?
The Socialist Party is not apologising for politically organising and campaigning for its ideas and tactics in any campaign. We have openly organised and worked with others in the trade unions for decades in broad lefts – why should the anti-bin tax campaign be any different. In what is an important campaign why shouldn’t the Socialist Party and others not meet and discuss the best way forward for the campaign. This is especially so in the situation were you have elements who are attempting to hold the movement back and in some situations actually tried to sabotage some of the campaigns direct action tactics.
The forces of the ruling class in this state and their liberal apologists bared their teeth in a concerted attempt to crush the anti-bin campaign in Fingal because they feared it could unleash a wave of mass opposition to the government. The bourgeois understood what you have failed to understand.
A decisive factor (but only one of many) in why the campaign in Fingal has suffered a blow and setback was the weakness of the campaigns in other areas. The fact that the campaign is not organised in a majority of working class communities in Dublin is a major problem. But the most important internal factor in the campaign was the conservatism of the likes of the SWP and others that are supposed to be leading figures in the campaign. As the campaign has shown having a "title" doesn’t make you a leader!
It was crucial in September that the other anti-bin campaigns should have launched a campaign of community based direct action in order to spread the campaign and to take on all of the councils in a concerted united effort. Many of the campaigns attempted to do this, e.g., in Finglas, Cabra etc. However others including the SWP opposed the blockade tactic. The SWP also discovered that when a battle begins it is impossible to muster forces that have not been built up before hand. The SWP campaigns were exposed as being phantoms, these pseudo revolutionaries were unable to mobilise their imaginary forces for the struggle. I am sure some will say that in one or two areas that the "conservatives" elements of the campaign have organised that they have had meetings of hundreds and demos etc. But this shows a complete lack of understanding of what it means to build a campaign. It is about a lot more that big meetings and large membership lists – its about politics. The fact that the conservatives never prepared the ground for the battle in the communities by arguing for the necessity of community based direct action negated against their ability to mobilise for such action. However no one actually believes that they did try and genuinely mobilise people. Instead their focus is on building their profile for the local elections. Once again the interests of the "party" are put above the interests and the necessities of the class struggle. Opportunism is always exposed by the class struggle.
The key tactic of the anti-bin tax campaign at this current juncture is to build, spread and strengthen the campaign into new areas and to consolidate it and involve more activists in the areas were it is already organised in preparation for the real implementation of non-collection. This is precisely what the Socialist Party and other genuine activists are doing. Unlike the conservatives we have not left the battlefield, we have not moved on to the next "issue".
The idea that the anti-bin tax campaign committees can be broadened out to become arenas for community campaigns on issues such as health, education, housing etc exposes the difficulty on commenting on the class struggle in Ireland from Chicago.
Undoubtedly there is deep seeded anger and discontent amongst the working class against this rotten neo-liberal government. The conditions exist for a struggle to erupt on a whole host of issues. It is however not immediately clear when and from where the fight back will come. What is definite is that the neither the Socialist Party or any other force is capable of artificially sparking off or creating such a fight back. If anyone was to go into the anti-bin tax campaign committees and raise the idea of broadening them out to take up other issues (at this stage anyhow) it would be met with gasps of disbelief from the community activists.
A fight back is developing the pace at which it will develop is uncertain, however an explosion in the class struggle is inherent in the current situation. There are many mitigating factors that are holding the movement back. Past defeats, the boom, Social Partnership and the collaborationist trade union bureaucrats, the sell out of the social democracy, the lack of activists in the trade unions, the pushing back of consciousness, the complete lack of an opposition, to name some. But all of these factors will be overcome. Forces of the left can play an important role in helping this process, but they can’t artificially jump-start it. When the anger and discontent of the working class begins to be expressed in struggle it will start the process of sections of the working class looking for a political force through which they can organise against the establishment parties and capitalism. It will therefore be in the context and the arena of struggle that the idea of building a new mass party of the working class will develop and take flesh.

author by Raypublication date Thu Dec 04, 2003 15:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Organisational forms. In Russia, a centrally organised revolutionary organisation seized centrally organised state power during and after a revolution. What I want to know is - at what point will you differ from the Bolsheviks?
Will the Socialist Party disband itself immediately after the revolution?
If not then, when?
You've argued above that post-revolutionary society doesn't need central control. But you've also argued that immediately after the revolution there will be a need for a state to fight against reactionary forces.
So we're back to the same problem. You say that less democratic methods will be discarded eventually. But we all have to take that on trust, don't we? In the meantime, we shouldn't be bothered by your plans to seize state power, because unlike everyone else who's done that before, you are all nice people*.

"We do not argue that "democracy is inefficient". "

But you do argue that direct democracy is inefficient, don't you? That's why you can't have direct democracy in the SP now. That's why 'democratic' centralist organisations 'punch above their weight'. (and the WSM doesn't?) Do you see why so many people think that the SP might be reluctant to part with its centralist ways in turbulent revolutionary times when you can't even practice direct democracy now?
What's going to happen in a revolution? You're going to be working much harder at organising protests, strikes, occupations, and other actions than you are now, right? You're going to lose members to wars, prison and exile. You're going to have opportunists joining in droves, hoping to be part of the party that has the power. But in the midst of all this, you're going to drop the organisational form that you think makes you so effective, and switch to a delegate system? Have you actually thought this through?

On those points of disagreement -
Mandating - its clearly impossible for every dotted i and crossed t to be mandated in advance. But it _is_ possible to limit the powers of the delegates you create and direct them in the broad lines of what they should be doing. More importantly, its possible to make every decision made by delegates contingent on a vote by the group that delegated them. So a trade union rep doesn't get to negotiate whatever agreement they like. They're told what the agreement should be like, in general, and the agreement doesn't come into force until its ratified by the assembly that created the delegate. This is the difference between a representative (like a TD, or a central committee member) and a delegate.
(A related point is that delegates should only be able to serve for a limited time. Unlike a TD, a First Comrade, or a paper editor, who can remain in their job for the rest of their lives)

The enforcement of decisions - as was pointed out, possibly in the other thread, the majority is often wrong, so the minority must have the right to disagree. They must also have the right to act on that disagreement (within limits - the freedom of each individual to act must be bounded by the equal freedom of others)
The funny thing is, leading members of your tradition have also argued that the minority shouldn't be bound by the wishes of the majority. The thing is, when Lenin and trotsky said that, they were talking about the party and the state as the minority, and the working class were the majority to be ignored!

the international nature of the revolution - I don't know where you're coming from here. I don't know of _any_ anarchist organisations or leading anarchist thinkers that have said there could be a successful anarchist revolution in a single country. I know for a fact that the WSM have explicitly argued the contrary on many occassions, as has the anarchist FAQ. Frankly, I think this is just another of those nonsensical smears, like 'anarchists don't believe in organisation' or 'Makhno was an anti-semite', that's handed down from Trot to Trot to stop them questioning their leaders.
Sure, anarchists argue that local action is important, and just because we think the revolution must be international doesn't mean we think there should be some sort of supranational revolutionary state telling us all what to do. Most decisions can and should be made on a local level. That doesn't mean, and I've never seen any anarchist argue, that local revolution is possible.




* Just to be clear, I don't think the SP is full of slavering wanna-be dictators. I think its full of people who will, in difficult situations and with the best of intentions, decide that democracy will have to wait. Well-meaning people, who think that, in times of crisis, its better to have decisions made by trained and knowledgable experts in revolution, rather than just anybody. Hard-working revolutionaries, who think that you can earn the right to rule by being hard-working.

author by How soon is nowpublication date Thu Dec 04, 2003 15:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This is a potentially interesting debate. The question has to be asked if the grassroots activism and huge anger directed against the Government in the anti bin tax campaign could find expression in a new political formation.

That the anti bin tax campaign is more than just a single issue campaign is clear. Local activists see the anti bin tax campaign as a movement for justice in the taxation system and readily contrast the Government's policies of stealth taxes, cutbacks and jailings for working class people to their tax breaks for big business and their kid gloves treatment of ansbacher crooks.

I don't think it would be too much of a stretch, in the context of the coming local elections, to pull together a left-wing, anti-cutbacks slate following an appeal to the membership of the anti bin tax campaign to get actively involved in building this left alternative.

It is not possible to say where this alliance of activists so constituted could develop into an alternative political formation that would catch the immagination of broad sections of the working class. SB is right to say that if such movements develop to any great degree it is because of organic developments in the quality and tempo of the class struggle. No socialist propaganda group can wish such a movement into being.

However, is it not also true to say that with the anti bin tax campaign, an opportunity to build something that might have developed in the direction of a left alternative to the establishment parties was let slip by? The membership of the anti bin tax campaigns were never even asked what their opinions on building a new formation might be. How do we know that they wouldn't have had a very positive response?

Ultimately, the sectarianism currently blighting the left would make the building of a new political party very difficult- perhaps even constitute an insurmountable obstacle. Working class people would no doubt be turned off by the spectacle of each grouplet jockying for position in a new party.

The working class in Scotland have a socialist alternative to New labour. In France the LO and LCR have agreed to contst elections on a joint slate. The RC provides a left alternative in italy. There are suggestions that george galloway will move towards setting up a new formation in England.

Is it not time that the working class in Ireland were at least given the opportunity to participate in a left organisation they could call their own?

author by Shaggypublication date Thu Dec 04, 2003 16:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Is it not time that the working class in Ireland were at least given the opportunity to participate in a left organisation they could call their own?"

They can. Its called the CWI aka SPI.

author by john throne - labors militant voicepublication date Thu Dec 04, 2003 19:40author email loughfinn at aol dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thank you Stephen for your comments. I am not sure how my idea that the anti bin tax committees could be the foundation for more broad based committees "exposes the difficulty on commenting on the class struggle in Ireland from Chicago". I am not suggesting that the committees should necessarily be broadened out at this precise time. Timing is a question for the people on the ground. But the issue is what does the SP have in mind for these committees when the bin struggle is over. I believe that the SP should be preparing the ground through discussion and publications for the these committees to be developed into local anti capitalist direct action working class committees taking on the attacks of capitalism. These would be the basis for a fight back and also the basis for developing a broad based political alternative to the existing organizations. Within these it would be possible to bring together the forces who are active in the bin tax for a more developed long term struggle. Within these it would be possible to lay the basis for an anti capitalist organization which would contribute to the building of an anti capitalist international within and through which the new forces that are developing could express themselves.

To short cut things a bit let me refute the points that the SP makes against these ideas of mine. In particular they say there are not hundreds of activists who could be mobilized. Well to be fair this was the answer of the SP to my suggestions up until the movement against the Iraq war and the movement around the bin tax. Now I do not hear this so much. It is clearly not correct. The position of the SP that there were not hundreds of activists was and is not correct. Now the SP leadership is more along the lines that we "can't artificially jump start " a movement. I do not disagree with this but I do believe that there are signs that a movement is trying to be born at this time. But the most important issue is the one that I have been raising. The forces that are seeking ways to struggle will not all go into the SP. This means that while building the SP it is necessary to build something else at the same time. Other wise the movement will be held back. So my suggestion is that while building the SP the SP should also campaign for the building of anti capitalist direct action committees and these to be part of an anti capitalist network throughout the country and internationally. Look at the situation for example now in Dublin. There are many groups and individuals who are looking for a way to struggle. It is in the interest of the working class movement that these forces are brought together to struggle together. To this end I see the need to develop the bin tax committees into more broad committees which take up other issues. I am not saying that immediately this should be done but that this idea should be put out and campaigned for. Otherwise the bin tax struggle will end and the committees will disperse and the struggle will do very little to contribute to the building of a new movement and the building of a new cohesive activist more politically conscious section within the working class.
John Throne.

Related Link: http://laborsmilitantvoice.com
author by meltedpublication date Thu Dec 04, 2003 20:01author address author phone Report this post to the editors

while groups such as the sp, wsm etc are actively engaged in community efforts of improvement, your sophist (aristotelian sense) arguments make me ask whether you pose any serious threat to the power structure that exists today. in what demonstratable way (and please refrain from resorting to 1917 etc discussions as they only add to your sophist representations) have any of these ideologies taken hold, in a meaningful, benificial to the worst off and changing sense, in the various strata of society?

author by MDCpublication date Fri Dec 05, 2003 01:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"I do believe that there are signs that a movement is trying to be born at this time"

John,
I do believe that your distance from Ireland as well as you living in a society for the past 20 years with nearly zero activism has lead you to analyse the situation in Ireland wrongly.

The actual numbers of people actually prepared to come out and get active in the bin tax struggle in reality was fairly small. There were lots of new people but nowhere near the scale that would be needed to launch a new broad party. There is massive support for the campaign but this is very passive support.

author by Enoughpublication date Fri Dec 05, 2003 09:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Go back to reading the Irish Times and leave the work in Ireland to the people who know what they are doing.

author by hs - sppublication date Fri Dec 05, 2003 16:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The discussion didn't come to an "abrupt" end. I studied your ideas and wrote some of the general problems I saw with the idea of the committies, we got side tracked many times but in the end you never addressed the concrete problems that I pointed out. (more than once)If you wish you can read them again , I dug around and found the thread . Saying "the sp is sectarian" isn't an answer, if you make a proposal you should be prepared to discuss with those who find problems with it. Otherwise it begins to sound like "agree with me or you're sectarian"

The thread is at:

http://www.indymedia.ie/newswire.php?story_id=61767&results_offset=300

author by john throne - labors militant voicepublication date Sat Dec 06, 2003 17:49author email loughfinn at aol dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

MDC points to the numbers on the bin tax struggle and says there was not sufficient numbers to launch a new party and so concludes that I am wrong about there being signs of a new movement struggling to be born. I would repeat again that the struggles against capitalist globalization, the struggles against the invasion of Iraq, 20 to 30 million people demonstrating internationally last febuary, these i believe are signs of a new movement struggling to be born. If they are not what are they? They are not signs of a movement that is dying.

I repeat I believe they are signs of a new movement struggling to be born. A major challenge for the activist movement is to assist this movement in its birth and to assist it to develop a structure and a program for change. I believe that we should be fighting for an anti capitalist international. I believe that nationally and locally we should be fighting for an anti capitalist movement within which all those who oppose capitalism , who want to confront and defeat its attacks, who base themselves on the working class, should be able to work together.

It is to this end I have raised the approach to the bin tax struggle and specifically the idea that we should approach this struggle keeping in mind the need to build an anti capitalist movement and assist this new movement to be born. This means having an approach to the bin tax committees that would try and assist them develop into more general and lasting working class anti capitalist centers.

In my last correspondence with HS I wrote: "My position is that as we struggle together we explain the points I raise above and we suggest that when the bin struggle is over that we should continue to work together, that is continue to operate in united front work such as the bin tax committees. I am in favor of trying to keep these in existance to carry on on a day to day basis the struggle on the other issues that affect the working class. That is that we try and develop in an organic way from the work together on the bin tax, from the bin tax committees themselves, united front working class anti capitalist committees in the neighbourhoods. These could be increasingly linked to the activists in the workplaces and the unions and the schools and colleges, and out of this process could develop an anti capitalist front, and other formations.

Comrade HS what does the SP have to say about the bin tax groups, what should happen to these when the bin tax struggle is over. These are genuine groupings of struggle thrown up in the struggle itself. I do not know what the SP has to say to these. I would like to hear. However I hear nothing. And when this is put together with the others issues I have raised then I am forced to conclude that the SP has an element of sectarianism in its approach and is not sufficiently guided by the needs of the working class today and the potential that exists amongst the working class and the activists. And that its policy is to let the anti bin tax formations die as soon as the bin tax struggle is over. "

I would still be interested in the SP position on this. As far as I understand it the SP position is join the bin tax struggle and when it is over the bin tax committees will die and join the SP and that is that. Just think about what this says to this new movement that is struggling to be born. It gives it no way in which it can move forward, develop more of a structure and policy. Just join the bin tax committee and join the SP. This is holding the movement back. This wrong position of the SP means that the SP has to continually deny that there is a new movement struggling to be born. Makes the SP have to continually deny that there are enough resources to build a new workers party.

Well maybe the SP is right on this. But then maybe it is not. It has already been shown to be wrong in relation to the SSP in Scotland. The CWI was absolutely opposed to the move to build the SSP. The time was not right etc. But the proof is in the pudding as Ted G always said and the SSP exists as a going concern, as a workers party. The SP was wrong in relation to Scotland maybe also in relation to Ireland. But I am not pushing to build a new mass party right away, I am pushing to see in what way the activists can work together and offer a mass alternative to the new movement that is struggling to be born. I think it would be a good start to advocate that the bin tax struggle and the bin tax committees be developed into more general working class centers of struggle within which all who oppose capitalism, all who base themselves on the working class, all who want to take on the capitalist offensive and defeat it can be active together.

As regards a couple of other comments. One commentator says that not living in Ireland I should leave things there to people who know about the situation. Well maybe you are right. On the other hand this would mean that if you lived in Ireland you would be confined to commenting on events there, in England to events there, in Nigeria to events there, in China to events there, this would make it impossible to build an international movement. And I do not understand why this commentator charges me with keeping quiet because i do not live in Ireland but seems to have no problem with HS who started this thread not living in Ireland. Is it just that he or she agrees witrh HS and not with me therefore HS is informed about Ireland and I am not. And by the way I do not read the Irish Times. I find that it is better to read the material of the more brutal bourgeois in the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times as this corresponds more to reality. But your snide comment makes me think that you think you know me. And brings me back again to the fact that I am debating with somebody who will not say who they are, somebody who wants to keep their identity hidden. I would like to ask again that if you think your opinion is worth giving then you should think it is worth saying who you are.


John Throne.

Related Link: http://laborsmilitantvoice.com
author by Hal Silkpublication date Sat Dec 06, 2003 17:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

In Northern Ireland it is appropriate to refer to the SP as a Micro Left Grouplet with no base in the community. Their vote in the Assembley Elections proves this.

author by hs - sppublication date Tue Dec 09, 2003 16:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Firstly quickly on the bin tax groups, as far as I could see some within the bin tax groups were simply against the bin tax as opposed to capitalism as a whole while others are card carrying socialists or anarchists which is quite a gap to fill and my point is those may not be interested in the committees and most likely it would be mainly the existing left. Then we are into all the old problems of domination by a single party or group.
I think any new organisation has to be wider.
On scotland the comrades there passed through a long struggle to get to their position which is only really beginning in Ireland. And they built the ssp in communities rather than simply sticking all the existing left groups together as in england and wales.
of course we too could be wrong. But if thats the case it will be the party which will suffer rather than the movement (In the long run).
If the conditions and the need for the working class to form a new movement or party it won't be prevented by a party as small as the SP, we're not an old mass cp or with anything close to their influence.

On commenting from abroad of course everyone has a right to. Of course we commenters from abroab have to recognise we may be wrong as we're not on the ground and things tend to get blown up over the internet.

author by MDCpublication date Tue Dec 09, 2003 16:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

There has been massive movements internationally against the war and against capitalism. This is obvious. There is also mass opposition to the bin tax and to the right wing government. there is also a vacuum in society as not one of the establishment parties have been able to fill. But this opposition is still a passive opposition which has shown itself from time to time such as on Feb 15. But it has not reached the level of activity or struggle needed to launch a new party. The activists are not there, there has still been no serious industrial battles in Irish society. There is no large laeft in the trade union movement. Any party launched now would be premature, all it would consist of is the SP, SWP and smaller groups like the ISN, WP, WCA and a handful of independents. This could in fact harm the movement, any new party should be born through struggle and be quite organic.

author by It's gotta be saidpublication date Tue Dec 09, 2003 16:53author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'm sick of John Throne painting himself as some kind of Irish Lenin In Exile. His writings about the situation in Ireland are tainted by the fact he has not been involved in the left in this country in about 20 years. 'hs-sp' acknowledges that his postings may not be totally correct as he is not in Ireland- why won't Throne qualify his postings like this?

He does not understand that the left has seen great gains with the anti-war and anti-bin tax struggles- but this is not enough to launch a a mass party! I would suggest that John Throne read his history and look into the formation of the mass workers parties in the past. They were born out of serious working class struggle- not just *relativly* small movements such as bin tax and war. Throne says that there is a mass party struggling to be born- he is correct. But it would be premature to be born now. Does John Throne think that we should reduce pregnancy to 4 or 5 months, leaving all those born weaker and smaller?

John Throne should also realise that he is being used by the right-wing iin the movement. The likes of Labour Youth are using his attacks against the CWI against the CWI. In previous discussions on Indymedia John Throne never refuted that 'New Direction' was a right-wing careerist formation in LY formed against Militant. I would like some clarification on this matter as it appears that you now retrospectivly support 'New Direction'.

John, you are not an Irish Lenin. You are not living abroad in exile. You will not be gloriously taken back into the ranks of the Irish left when you step off a train in Connolly station. When you are involved in the struggles in Ireland (or at least have good and wide sources) I will then take what you say seriously.

author by Puppy Watchpublication date Tue Dec 09, 2003 17:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It looks like one of the puppies has been given an extra high dosage of tablets today.

"John, you are not an Irish Lenin."
I think you will find that, that is actually a plus.
The CWI doesn't want to play a role in building a mass party (look at Scotland, dragged into it kicking and screaming). It is afraid of diluting its revolutionary purity.
Now puppy back to your kennel to practice your dogma. (It should go down well on the doorsteps when you are out canvassing next year.)

author by hs - sppublication date Tue Dec 09, 2003 18:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

John throne hasn't called for a new party, rather a much looser coalition of leftists and anti capitalists and community organisers on a local level. Which although I don't agree with has some merits as opposed to a new political party and could be well feasilble in the future.

Puppy watcher, you're not helping much yourself either.

author by Puppy Watchpublication date Tue Dec 09, 2003 18:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Its not my job to help. Its obvious that 'It's gotta be said' is one of your own. Ever wondered what sort of 'internal regime' you must have to have dogma junkies.

author by john throne - labors militant voicepublication date Tue Dec 09, 2003 22:43author email loughfinn at aol dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

I will ignore the snide remarks about Lenin and about my ideas being used by the right wing etc. Any serious person will see these for what they are. Cheap shots meant to discredit.

To me the issue is this. What does the working class need at this time and what is the potential of the activist movement in relation to supplying this need?

I believe that the need of the working class is to develop a movement which can halt and throw back the offensive of capitalism. The union leaders will not build such a movement. There is no mass activist section of the working class with a clear political view and with cohesion that can play this role. However there are many hundreds of activists in Ireland in different radical organizations and from different radical traditions. There are also thousands of workers and youth who would be prepared to be active if they could see some sort of reasonable chance of success, especially if they could see the activist organizations overcoming sectarianism and being able to work together. I condemn the role of the union leadership in holding back the building of such a movement. Their role should always be pointed out and opposed. However I am not prepared to go along with ignoring the role of the activist left, including myself, in this regard. We also have a responsibility. We do not have the mass resources of the union leaders but we do have resources. Namely the many hundreds of activists that are in our organizations and with whom we are in contact.

Most activist groups agree that the various activist groups should work together such as in the anti war and the anti bin tax struggles. But most then blame the other groups, or individual activists and small groups blame the existance of large groups, or anarchist groups blame the ideas of the socialist groups, or socialist groups the anarchist groups etc, for the fact that the anti capitalist activist movement, socialist and anarchist, organized and not organized, has great difficulty working together on a sustained basis. I am trying to address this issue. How can the thousands of activists and different activist groups work together in a way that opens up the road for the wider working class forces to begin to find the road to struggle? I do not believe it is responsible for the activist movement and the activists to ignore this issue or to think that they can be passive in front of this problem of sectarianism.

I am in favor of continually putting this issue in front of the movement. Of putting it in front of all the various anti capitalist groups and activists. I am in favor especially of raising this in front of the new fresher sections of the working class when they move into struggle and I am in favor of trying to get the various groups and organizations to justify their position on this issue in front of the working class in struggle.

The SP has considerable resources compared to most left groups. If they took up this position and raised these issues in front of the workers movement I believe they would have an affect. I believe that all other groups and activists would have to then justify in front of the working class why they were not prepared to work together in an anti capitalist united front movement. I am interested in how groups would justify to workers not being prepared to build an anti capitalist working class direct action movement. Sure there would be a tendency to blame each other. This is what happens at present. But if a large group like the SP took the approach I suggest above then it would begin to change things.

I will not repeat points I have made before but if the SP had used the arrest and jailing of Joe and Clare to build the bin tax movement unity, see where I have suggested that the Gresham meeting could have been used to strengthen the united front movement, this would have put sectarianism under the search light and would have made it much easier to build a united movement of a more cohesive and sustained basis. As I suggest it could have made much clearer the sectarianism of the SWP over the SIPTU issue. It could have put sectarianism in general and the damage it does on the agenda and made all groups and activists examine their policies in this regard.

Given the present role of the larger left organizations in Ireland I think that the SSP approach is now very hard to see as being feasible in Southern Ireland in the immediate term. When Joe H was first elected I think the SP was in a much better position to take this step. At present the SP would have to prove that it was no longer pursuing its build itself alone policy. This would be possible for the SP to do but it would only be possible over a period of sustained struggle. And the present leadership of the SP seems to have no interest in this approach. Therefore it is hard to see how the SP could play a leading role in an SSP development in the immediate term. The SWP has even less of a capability or willingness in this regard.

There is also the issue of the anarchist movement that exists in Ireland now. This is a feature that did not exist in Scotland to anything like the same extent when the SSP was developing. I think that it is important that the anti capitalist forces which are represented in the anarchist movement should also be brought together as part of the anti capitalist working class movement.

For these combination of reasons I believe that the need of the working class, that is the building of an anti capitalist fighting movement, can best be moved forward at this time, by campaigning for anti capitalist united fronts which take up the day to day issues in a direct action fight to win fashion. Part of this process would involve campaigning for the idea of bringing these together in an anti capitalist organization in Ireland and an anti capitalist international. I would see the points of unity of these anti capitalist fronts, this anti capitalist international, as roughly being along these lines:

For the building of a fighting working class movement to carry out the fight against the offensive of capitalism. This movement would base itself on the tactics of taking up the day to day struggles in a direct action, fight to win, manner.

This movement would oppose capitalism as a system which is threatening life on earth as it is presently known.

This movement would fight for a society internationally which would not be based on profit but would be based instead on the principle of the needs of the working peoples of the world, the sustainability of life on earth, and this society would be run on the basis of collective action and collective democratic decision making.


This movement would base itself on taking up the day to day struggles through direct action fight to win tactics and clearly disassociate itself from the policies of the labor and union leaders which are based at best on pleading with the capitalists to be more considerate.




These are a few basic points. I am very in favor of developing them further through discussion but I do believe they are the basis for bringing together anti capitalist activists in a movement which would begin to open the road for the wider working class movement to take action. I believe that this approach would make it possible to realize the potential that exists in the many hundreds of activists that exist.

As I have said the larger left groups could take the lead on this front and move forward to build such a movement. But these groups are not prepared to do this at this time. I would hope that the members of these groups would organize to change the policies of these groups in the near future.

So what then about the role of the smaller left groups and the role of the anarchist groups and the role of respected experienced activists in no groups and from different anti capitalist traditions? I believe that these smaller forces should also consider the responsibility on their shoulders. For example I believe they should consider meeting to discuss putting their forces together to fight for these general policies. Perhaps set up a Connolly/Larkin Association based on a few general principles like above and to which different groups and individuals could belong while still belonging to their own small groups or remaining as an individual activist. The purpose of this group would be to campaign within the activist movement and the working class in struggle for this approach that I suggest.

Activists could belong to this association and still be part of their own revolutionary organization. Individual activists could be part of this association and help forward the campaign for these basic ideas and not have their entire day to day activist work directed by this association. This association would campaign for the general ideas above in the movement as a whole. It would help strengthen the idea of building anti capitalist direct action united fronts. It would help sectarianism as a major obstacle to the workers movement and strengthen the struggle against sectarianism. It would help build a new cohesive combative sector once again within the working class. A couple of smaller anti capitalist groups together with some respected activists could launch such an association and begin to have an affect on the movement.

Some SP Comrades keep repeating that there is not a sufficient movement of the working class to build a mass party. As you can see I am not suggesting this here at present. However SP Comrades should be careful about their arguments. As I have said before the SP fought for and fights for a mass party of the working class in the North for the past 30 years. There was no mass movement during this period. The CWI sympathizing group in the US fights for a mass workers party there and there is no mass workers movement. The SSP developed in spite of the lack of a mass workers movement in the form that SP Comrades refer to this. I believe that the the continual pointing to the lack of a mass wrokers movement is in fact a way to justify the concentration of the SP on trying to build its own ranks and trying on its own to fill the vacuum that exists.

It also seems like wherever the CWI is strong enough to actually affect the development of a mass workers party, such as in Southern Ireland or in the past in Scotland, then it focuses on the lack of a mass workers movement to justify not using its resources to form such a party, and wherever it is to small to actually affect the building of a mass workers party then it continually campaigns for a mass workers party. Did somebody once say that sectarianism was opportunism standing in fear of itself. Or did I make this up myself. Either way it might be useful to consider this idea in the present situation and to consider how the resources of the larger left groups and the resources of the smaller left groups and individual activists can all be best used to address the need of the working class.

No doubt I will annoy some participants on this list again by offering my ideas. I am sorry about this. However I am not prepared to keep quiet because I am annoying some person who will not even say who they are. I would like to point out that it would be healthier for the activist movement if people would identify themselves when they put forward their ideas. Especially when they are attacking others.

John Throne.

Related Link: http://laborsmilitantvoice.com
author by Charlie Foxtrotpublication date Wed Dec 10, 2003 13:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

1. Who are you trying to convince? There is no chance that you will be back in the CWI.

2. Do you not think that posting on Indymedia is harming your argument as most serious activists do not view it as a place for serious argument and discussion.

3. Why don't you qualify your postings by saying that you've not been in Ireland for over 20 years?

4. Who are these people that will be in your 'local anti-capitalist action groups'? All that would be attracted would be members of SP, SWP, etc, etc Where you in Ireland when the IAWM tried to launch local anti-war groups?

John, please don't give long replies- I just won't read it. I've asked you 4 questions, can I have 4 answers (a few lines max.).

author by wise word - for itpublication date Wed Dec 10, 2003 16:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"4. Who are these people that will be in your 'local anti-capitalist action groups'? All that would be attracted would be members of SP, SWP, etc, etc Where you in Ireland when the IAWM tried to launch local anti-war groups?"

Please Please Please give me one instance where there was a genuine attempt to launch a local anti war group that was initiated by the IAWM and not locals. The IAWM (SWP and a minority of others) did not want an independent, locally based movement becuse the first thing they would have done is eject the leadership of dick boyd barrett and his minions.
So JT does not live in Ireland so should he be banned from using indymedia in ireland?
What a load of crap. JT cannot have a view cause he lives in America? Do you live in Palestine/Iraq/America etc? No? But I bet you have an opinion on them all.

author by Charlie Foxtrotpublication date Thu Dec 11, 2003 14:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The IAWM did attempt to launch local groups. There was not a massive turnout at any public meetings and organising meetings compared to the massive numbers at the demos. There was not a level of activity that we all would have liked. I believe that there were genuine anti-war groups- but not of the size we all would have liked.

John Throne is proposing groups that would be 'anti capitalist'. So his version of local groups would be more developed then the anti-war groups. He wants anti-capitalist groups- not everyone in the anti-war movement are anti-capitalist!

On JT not being in Ireland. In general I have no problem with anyone commenting on events in Ireland or elsewhere. But when I comment on Iraq, I understand that I am not in that country and have little experience of that country. Throne would be correct in his analysis of Ireland IF the anti-capitalist movement was more developed- which it is not. He does not realise that as he is not in the country, he has not been here for over 20 years. Yet, he ignores people telling him what the situation is on the ground in this country.


John Throne- please answer my 4 questions.

author by Sierra Papapublication date Thu Dec 11, 2003 14:38author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Yet, he ignores people telling him what the situation is on the ground in this country."

Why don't you give us your insight as to what is happening on the ground.
Let me see. Objective conditions are not right for anything broad. Any proposal for launching an initiative would only attract mad republican sects and opportunist trots. We have to build up class consciousness. The only vehicle for doing that is the SP. Am I close?
You might be tired of listening to JT's 'crap', some of us are tired of your formulaes.
For the record it looks like the traditon of 'long windedness' isn't dead. Go look at Boyds contribution on Ivana Bacik on another thread.

author by john throne - labors militant voicepublication date Fri Dec 12, 2003 05:19author email loughfinn at aol dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Charlie Foxtrot whoever that is wants some questions answered. First allow me a question. Who is Charlie Foxtrot? And why will this person not give their real name.

Now to Foxtrots questions. Charlie Foxtrot asks me:
"1. Who are you trying to convince? There is no chance that you will be back in the CWI?"

This is a very petty way to approach this issue. It is to try and suggest that i am approaching this discussion in a personal way. This is part of the effort to discredit me. But let me answer directly. It is not my interest to get back into the CWI. I am interested in trying to help that organization to which I gave so much of my life to break out of the serious crisis in which it now finds itself. I do not want to see such an amount of work of so many activists to be wasted. I do not want to see the new young members of that organization to be kept in the dark of the history of their organization and as a result to be prevented from taking the class struggle forward.

However my main interest in these discussions is in trying to weaken sectarianism in the left in general and to help build an anti capitalist movement in Ireland and Internationally. I am interested in trying to assist the Comrades of the CWI as well as left activists in general to openly recognize that sectarianism is seriously damaging the working class struggle. And to work to try and convince the many hundreds of activists in different groups and traditions that they should be openly discussing and confronting the role of sectarianism and their own contribution to this. And how steps can be taken to over come sectarianism. This against the background of the total capitulation of the mass reformist organizations and the new movement that is struggling to be born but which cannot find its feet programatically, theoretically or organizationally.

Look at my suggestions concretely in relation to Ireland. Take any area of Dublin. Any big working class area. Take the Crumlin area where I used to live. In the Crumlin Walkinstown area there are a number of left activist groups from different socialist traditions and from anarchist traditions. And there are many many working class and community activists who would be prepared to get organized and work much closer together if they could see a non sectarian alternative which was taking serious and effective action against the local manifestations of the capitalist offensive. And there are new youth and ananrchist organizations also seeking a way to fight capitalism.

My position is not too complicated. I believe that all activists should openly recognize the reality of the existence of these many different groups and divisions, should openly state that it is in the interest of the working class for these forces to get together to organize and fight and assist the working class to fight back. And should openly recognize and state that while there are differences between these groups there are also very important issues in common, and that the best way which to get these forces together would be to suggest that these groups while maintaining their own identity would come together in struggle around a few basic points of unity. In other words a united front.

I would suggest the points of unity of such a united front would be somewhat along the following lines: It would be explicitly anti capitalist, explicitly organizing to fight the local daily manifestations of the capitalist offensive, using direct action fight to win tactics in these struggles, explicitly recognizing that the working class is the force that can defeat the capitalist offensive and explicitly explaining that the policies of the leaderships of the labor organizations and of the liberal groups are part of the problem not part of the solution.

I would suggest that for example the SP, to which I imagine Charlie Foxtrot belongs should take up an open struggle to build such an anti capitalist united front, formally approach all other groups for discussions along these lines. But I would suggest that it is the responsibility of all groups and activists to take action along these lines. Take out to the activists and working class in general these ideas and explain that they are approaching all the other left groups and activists to get together and work together in an anti capitalist united front. At the same time the SP or whatever group or activist would be going ahead with its own organizing work and showing in action that it is a serious fighting anti capitalist group and also at every turn taking the opportunity to show that it is non sectarian and trying to build the anti capitalist united fronts through out the country.

Look at the work on the bin tax. How many workers and activists the SP discusses with. At the same time as fighting on the bin tax, or fighting on low wages, or housing or whatever, while keeping the fight on the concrete issue to the fore, the SP should at every opportunity explain to the workers and activists it meets that it also wants to get together with all the other groups, and it wants all activists not in groups to come together to build a united front. Such an approach would begin to put the sectarianism of the left groups on the agenda for discussion by workers, it would also begin to put sectarianism onto the defensive within these groups and it would begin to open the road to the building of an anti capitalist movement and this in turn would begin to be seen by the wider working class forces as offering a way through which they could mobilize and to which it would be worth giving their resources.

Now is this not what is in the interest of the woirking class movement. Is it not in the interest of the working class that the many activist groups should be working together rather than acting in a sectarian fashion. I believe it is impossible to deny the correctness of my position on this question. It is impossible to deny that this is what is in the interest of the working class. That this is what would maximise the resources and power of the activists and bring closer the day when the broader layers of the working class would see the way they could take action.

I can imagine that Charlie Foxtrot will say that this group will not agree and that group will not agree and this group etc etc. blah. blah. blah. There is truth in this. However this type of response is basically one group diverting attention from its own sectarianism by pointing to the sectarianism of the other groups. It is to betray the interest of the working class by being passive in front of this sectarianism. Instead the idea of working together should be taken out to the working class in all our campaigns. This idea would make perfect sense to the working class. It would be impossible for them to understand why all these left working class based groups refuse to work together. By taking the issue out in this way would be to mobilize the working class activists we could reach in our day to day work against sectarianism. As a result all the left groups would then have to defend their sectarianism in front of the working class. The result would be debate and discussion in all these groups as the pressure of the working class made itself felt and with a determined leadership of a small group or two or a dozen or so individual activists coming together then some serious advances could begin to be made in an area or two. These in turn could then begin to become an example to the rest of the country and so on etc.

This is what I believe is in the interest of the working class and it is what would allow the potential that exists amongst the activist movement to be realized. Charlie Foxtrot it would be helpful to hear you concretely explain why you disagree with this approach. This would help the movement. We would all learn.

I hope to hear your concrete arguments against this. I hope there is an end to silly arguments like where you state below that do I not think i am harming my argument by posting on Indymedia. This when you yourself are posting on indymedia and so is the SP. When this very discussion which was started by an SP member is taking place on the indymedia. And of course if the SP/CWI had the proper internal life I could still be in this international and my opinions would be able to be expressed in the SP paper and website and the CWI papers and websites.

I hope also to hear an end to your harping on about my not living in Ireland for 20 years. The fact that you have the figure exactly correct confirms to me further that you are an SP member and somebody I know. If this is the case you also know that I have very extensive and regular contacts with activists in Ireland plus i make regular visits. And of course as " Wiseword" says you undoubtedly have opinions on what should happen in other countries. If you are a long term member of the SP then you felt you knew enough about the situation in the US to vote to support my expulsion and to deny my right to appeal against this at the Irish CC and Conference without ever visiting the US to see the situation for yourself.

Please identify yourself and have the decency to openly debate with me under your proper name. John Throne.

Related Link: http://laborsmilitantvoice.com
author by hs - sppublication date Fri Dec 12, 2003 16:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'm afraid the debate's gone back to the old personal insults so we might as well end it here, puppy watch you're probably the member of a rival organisation otherwise you'd write your name. So I can't take you seriously.

Also the debate was on elections but thats gone too.

John Throne I don't really know the mood on the ground very well but as I said I have my doubhts but it is possible when the bin charges ends your ideas could be proposed. I don't know if it would go down to well in the middle of the campaign. Could be thought of as opportunistic by people who aren't anti capitalist. Of course you will need someone to propose them and I haven't heard support from anyone in Ireland (including those outside the sp). Anyway emmet farrel has an excellent report on the latest bin tax conference here:

http://www.indymedia.ie/newswire.php?story_id=62576

On the internal life of the party its just how you personally founded it so you can blame no one else. As far as I'm concerned you lost in a power struggle in the states and probably would have acted no differently if you won, you were in the leadership for decades and never changed anything but now when your out, its all wrong. Were you in the party during the big splits or not? Call be cynical but thats how I see it. And I don't want to engage in another debate in this. Its too little far too late, you had decades.

As far as I am concerned the SP in Ireland remains the only party that seems capable of bringing any real change and is why I am a member. Generally the party was correct in its decisions from what I've seen so far. And I don't see anything else with even more of a slim chance than the the sp has. We need a mass movement aoutside the intellectual left and so far the party is the only one whcih has in any way reached beyond that. And thats the way I see it.

For my own comrades (if you are real) I don't think we need to resort to insults to make arguments, it does us more harm than anyone else. Presuming of course it isn't someone pretending to be a member. This will always be the main problem with indymedia no one really knows who is genuine or not. So again I will say the only place to find the actual official position of the sp or cwi is on our websites.

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