How the increased force of the left can move forward.
In the recent elections north and south there have been a number of candidates elected who have stood on an anti capitalist platform. This article here tries to put forward a strategy how these forces could work together to engage more with the mass of the working class north and south and build a mass anti capitalist movement in ireland, England, Scotland and Wales.
Sent: Mon, May 9, 2016 10:32 am
Subject: Re: A united front: Left sectarianism, the National Question, the special oppression of women and the PBP and other left victories.
We have recently had the important gains of left candidates in Ireland North and South. The most recent and probably most notable are the elections of PBP candidates in Derry and Belfast. They come after the elections of left candidates in the earlier Southern elections. After the southern elections i wrote a piece where I said the left should not be focusing on their victories but on why the majority of the population still voted for right wing parties and candidates and what was the strategy of the left to end this. I still stand over this position. That is that we must have a sense of proportion. Yes victories for the left but how do we win the majority of the population to the struggle to end capitalism. I would like to raise a few thoughts on this. Before doing so I would ask the obvious question. Who am I to raise any questions in relation to this. I have been out of Ireland now for decades. I accept this but i would also say that I have tried to keep up with events there. The other reason i feel justified in commenting on these issues is the role of left sectarianism and ultra leftism and how in my opinion these damage the revolutionary left and its ability to win the mass of the population to its positions. I was left sectarian and ultra left to one degree or another most of my political life and this contributed to the damaging of the workers movement. I believe we all were. I also believe that unless we face up to this and draw conclusions we will be like the person who wants to give up drinking but without admitting they are an alcoholic. It will be hopeless.
I was left sectarian in that i dismissed every other left group as sects and tried to ignore them, to treat them with contempt. I was ultra left in trying to force the full revolutionary program down the throats of the working class, not sufficiently listening to taking into account the consciousness of the working class. I was in the Militant at the time of the anti Poll Tax movement which it led. At its height up to 18 million people were not paying the poll tax. Where did this movement go? How come it did not give rise to a semi mass or mass revolutionary or even anti capitalist organization in Britain. i can hear the cry now, well there was the objective situation, the collapse of Stalinism etc. But in my opinion this was not all. there was also the left sectarianism of the Militant, the ultra leftism of the Militant, yes they can and often do go hand in hand, and there was also the incorrect internal life of the Militant the majority of the leadership of which was more worried about losing control of its little apparatus than concerned with building a mass working class force against capitalism. So where to in Ireland now?
We have the victories of the left candidates north and south. These are important steps forward. But the question for me is how to build on this small base a semi mass or mass movement against capitalism. And a united working class force against capitalism. I believe there are political problems with this. The national question is one. I enclose below an article i wrote on this question where i adjust my position on this. i think that this is rooted in the real situation that exists. That the Protestant working class will never be forced into a united Ireland, either a socialist or a capitalist united Ireland. I still stand for a socialist united Ireland and a socialist Britain but i believe we have to stand also for the position that there will be no forcing of the Protestant working class into a united Ireland. This is the position of the peace agreement and in reality the Provos and this after 30 years of war to try and force the Protestant working class into a united Ireland. This will never happen. So what then? I believe in a Socialist Federation of Ireland and Britain within which the internal borders would be decided democratically. And would be left open to see how things develop. Emphasis on forcing the Protestant working class into a united Ireland, either socialist or capitalist would throw the Protestant working class into the arms of reaction. Into the arms of the counter revolution. the result would be civil war and repartition. I believe that the emphasis has to be on a socialist Britain and a socialist Ireland, no coercion of any sections of any of the populations in these islands into formations they are opposed to. I believe this raises the need to recognize that the socialist revolution may not be able to go directly to a socialist united Ireland. That some sort of interim formation could be necessary in order to avoid sectarian war and division. Perhaps some sort of canton formations in the north. These in reality, though not formally exist there already. All you have to do is drive around and on the side walks and walls and light poles see the different colors denoting the different "cantons." And of course there are the so called peace walls.
If the revolution develops first in England and sweeps across borders into Scotland, Wales and Ireland then i think that it would be possible to go directly from the present situation to a socialist united Ireland. But if this was not the case then I think it would be possible that the capitalist classes could turn the demand for an immediate united Ireland into a reactionary mobilizing tool to get the Protestant working class on its side. Rather than emphasis the issue of uniting Ireland more thought has to be given to emphasizing the need for the socialist revolution in England with its much bigger economy and working class and the need for the revolution there to then be spread internationally including to Ireland. This also of course raises the impact that such a revolution would have on world affairs given the importance of British capitalism internationally. I believe an adjustment on the national question along these lines is necessary for a number of reason. One is to provide a road for the socialist revolution and the defeat of imperialism in Ireland. Two is to provide a way for the present left forces to come together in a mss direct action and electoral united front. The adoption of such a position would make this much more possible.
On the issue of building a mass direct action and electoral united front there is another issue that has received insufficient attention in the past and in fact to the present. This is the special oppression of women. Divide and rule in Ireland has tended to be seen as Protestant versus Catholic. But divide and rule in Ireland as elsewhere has also been gender based. Male against female against transgender. Sexual orientation has been used to divide the working class. This is being challenged by the working class in Ireland now especially the women of the working class. This has been shown by the victory on same sex marriage. This is a big step forward. The revolutionary left must make this a much more central part of their work. The sexism within capitalism, within the labor movement and also within the internal lives of the of the revolutionary left must all be openly challenged. All the left organizations are guilty of trying to hide the special oppression of women within their own ranks. This has to be stopped. While in and of itself the correct thing to do this can also be a great help in building a united front. And in building a wider unity within the working class. The divisive male ego can be less influential. It also should not be forgotten that before it was co-opted by the state it was the Peace Movement, which was led by women, which was the only force that crossed the sectarian lines between the Shankhill and the Falls, and which with their whistle patrols for a very brief few days drove both the sectarian para military groups and the repressive imperialist British Army of the streets.
I would like to suggest Comrades that you take action to call a meeting of all of you to discuss this issue. I would send this also to members of the CWI/SP such as Joe Higgins, Ruth Coppinger, Mick Barry but I do not have their emails. If anybody could pass this on to them or/and send me their emails I would appreciate this. I will be in Ireland in the second week in june and would very much like to meet Comrades then. I may have no influence on Comrades thinking and this is fine. But I would say this. I am prepared to step around the anger I feel about the way i was treated by the CWI and former CWI members if this could help get CWI, PBP, North and South Comrades like yourselves Dermot and Joan, Clare, Finn and others into the one room to discuss left sectarianism and the idea of a mass direct action and an electoral united front. I feel that this is in the interest of the working class and what ever is in the interest of the working class revolutionaries have a duty to do it. We have to be able to get over our own personal wounds in the interests of the working class.
There will of course be pressure put on all Comrades by their own organizations to not take such a step. But fighting left sectarianism, fighting to build a mass direct action electoral front will demand that Comrades stand up and take on the left sectarianism in their own organizations, especially other leading members of their own organizations who have developed bad habits of being in charge and telling the organization what to do. As was the case with Lenin, his successes only came because he was prepared to stand up to and fight the wrong policies of his own organization. In the last analysis this is the test of a revolutionary. Can we stand up to and fight and oppose wrong policies when these develop in our own organizations.
I address this post especially to all the leading members of the various left organizations and the elected members of parliament of these and left organizations. You comrades have a greater influence and authority and therefore the greater responsibility. You have to take a stand. and if this means a stand against sections of your own organization then so be it. In the last analysis if you do do so this will be for the best for the working class and for your own organization which if it is healthy will see its own interests as those of the working class.