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The Socialist Party,Joan Collins and the Bin Tax Battle

category dublin | bin tax / household tax / water tax | opinion/analysis author Tuesday April 20, 2004 10:43author by Dermot Connollyauthor address 30 ring st, Inchicore, D8 Report this post to the editors

An analysis by Dermot Connolly, ex Secretary of the Socialist Party

Joan Collins is standing as an anti-bin tax candidate, not a Socialist Party candidate, in the local elections. This article explains why and looks back at anti bin tax campaign.

Members of the Socialist Party (SP) and indeed left wing activists in Dublin will be surprised to hear that Joan Collins will not be standing for the SP in the June local elections. They will, or should be quite surprised, that a person with an extremely good chance of actually winning a seat on the council has felt it necessary to withdraw from selection for the SP and to stand as an independent anti bin tax candidate.

Over the course of the last year it has been clear that an element of the SP leadership in Dublin did not want JC to stand as a party candidate. In the summer of 2003 opposition to her standing was expressed by these elements on the spurious basis that there was no party branch in the area. This 'condition' for standing has never been applied before. If it did, there would have been very few candidates put forward over the last twenty years, and that includes areas like Mulhuddart, Dublin West and Dublin North.

At the same time as opposing JC on this basis, the SP were encouraging people to stand in the Liberties and in Finglas. Were there party branches in these areas? No, there was at the time one SP branch covering the whole of Dublin city. The opposition to JC standing was cut across at a meeting of the National Committee when the issue was raised by M Murphy from the Tallagh branch. It was subsequently reported in the Voice (SP journal) that JC would be a candidate in Crumlin. In the same report the SP were unable to name candidates for the Liberties or Finglas.

The SP were unable to persuade anyone to stand for them in Finglas. At a meeting of the now established city north side branch late last year to discuss this, Kevin McLoughlin stated that the party only had the resources to stand in one area of the city. No one was under any illusions that this would be the Liberties where Diarmuid Naessens had come forward as a candidate.

If any further proof were needed as to the SP leaderships' attitude, in a discussion with JC both KMcL and Michael Murphy (from Swords) told her that there was a lack of trust in the SP regarding her role in the anti bin tax campaign, and that in their opinion she should not stand but spend some time concentrating on work in the south side party branch. Apparently JC needed to spend some time on her 'rehabilitation'.

This is some way to treat a hard working, loyal member of 17 years involvement. Not once in all of this has there been a discussion initiated by the SP leadership of the prospects for the June elections in Crumlin, what vote could be gained; could she win a seat; how a campaign could be run; what resources would be available?

Every indication by this element of the leadership has been that JC wanting to stand was not an opportunity but a problem. This leaves aside any argument about the desirability of the anti bin tax campaign putting forward an alternative in one of the most working class electoral areas where there is also one of the strongest anti bin tax campaigns. If K McL and MM had their way, there would be no candidate in this area.

Having failed to pressurise JC into withdrawing, and obviously having to contend with questions in the SP on the issue, the SP leadership wrote to JC outlining five conditions under which they would accept her as a candidate. Before dealing with these conditions it is necessary to deal with the reasons why the SP argued this course of action was justified.

The letter begins with the statement that ' there are important differences between your views and the party on; tactics in the bin tax battle and work in broader campaigns; estimation of the mood in the working class and the basis for for a new left formation; and the tasks of building the SP'.

It goes on to state that ' there have been serious public disagreements between you and the party over the last year where you have knowingly opposed the agreed position of the party regarding the bin tax.'

The claim that JC publicly and seriously opposed the SP on tactics in the bin tax struggle will come as a surprise to many actually involved in that struggle. It seems that The SP leadership have a difficulty distinguishing between discussions in the SP and publicly opposing the party line. Where and on which occasions did JC publicly and knowingly oppose the SP on tactics in the bin tax campaign?

Let's take the question of tactics in this struggle in a serious manner. There is a world of difference between important and fundamental tactical issues and twiddle twaddle about whether an event takes place on a Monday or a Tuesday.

There have been no fundamental differences between anybody involved in a serious way in the anti bin tax campaign in Dublin. The Dublin City campaign has held two conferences over the last three years. No fundamental differences have emerged. Last December the four Dublin campaigns came together for a conference. This was after the big struggles, blockades, jailings, etc. No fundamental differences were raised, by any one. It is quite exceptional that a campaign which involved diverse political groupings such as the SP, SWP, WCA, WSM, ISN, WP and SF that not a single resolution can be traced form these conferences which created the slightest controversy.

Why is this the case? The answer is simple. The key tactics of the anti bin tax campaign draw on the lessons of the victory on water charges. Even though the water charges were not attempted in Dublin city, the campaign had a big impact on the consciousness of the working class in general. The idea of mass non payment as the key tactic was readily acceptable. Even if there was no campaign, non payment would have existed on a widespread basis.

It was also readily accepted that the way to defend non payment against the use of the courts and withdrawal of the service should be based on the lessons of the water charges, hence the question of establishing a mass membership and setting up a legal defence fund. While it was understood that we would not win in the courts, it was important to be able to frustrate the councils, employ delaying tactics, and stop hundreds of people being brought before the courts and having awards made against them. On withdrawal of the service it was also possible to use the courts for a period, but in the longer run it would be necessary to mobilise mass action to stop non collection.

Along with these it was understood that the maximum political pressure should be put on the councillors who voted in the tax. All of these tactics were consistent with the water campaign and flowed from the lessons of that struggle.

There has never been any fundamental differences raised on these key questions. Indeed we would like to put to the SP leadership the question? Where has it raised in public, at campaign meetings, at conferences or in the publications of the SP, any criticism or questions relating to the fundamental tactics of the anti bin tax campaign in Dublin city? And if it has not done this, how could any SP member, never mind JC, publicly oppose a position that has never been put in public?

However, within the SP, and behind the scenes in the anti bin tax campaign, there has been an attempt by the SP leadership to claim that there were fundamental differences in how to respond to non collection, implying a principled difference between their revolutionary stance, and a reformist, conservative approach on behalf of Dermot Connolly, JC and the SWP. This has never been put forward in public.

The position of the Dublin City campaign on this question has always been quite clear. We would respond to non collection with mass protests to block the bin lorries in the estates. This position was put forward without disagreement by the leadership of the campaign in a resolution to the conference in 2003, proposed by JC and agreed unanimously.

Dublin City Council did not however attempt to introduce non collection across the city, as this would most likely have unleashed a massive response in the working class estates. They started, in their words, in the 'more affluent' south east, where the campaign was weaker, and indeed didn't exist in places like Ballsbridge, Ranelagh, Rathmines, etc.

There were only two areas where the campaign could respond with community protests. In Ringsend the truck was blocked and non collection was dropped, winning an important victory for the campaign.

In the Mount Tallant/Harolds Cross area the campaign was weaker yet there was a response. The bin trucks were blocked in the estates, they were followed to ensure all bins were collected, and several protests were organised at the depot in Rathmines. These activities were organised by DC, JC and Brid Smith (an SWP member who is the campaign PRO). DC and BS were jailed for two weeks for these activities. To claim, as is frequently done behind the scenes, a weakness on behalf of these individuals in responding to non collection is an absolute disgrace.

The only members of the SP who intervened in the only areas of the city at that time, last September/October, where non collection was being attempted were DC, JC and Emmett Farrel. Not only were those who now pontificate about weaknesses absent, they publicly dismissed the struggle in these areas as of no consequence compared to the ‘real ' battle in Fingal. The battle in Fingal was of extreme importance, and in overall terms more important, but to make no response at all to the attack in the city, whatever the difficulties, would have been a major mistake.

Here we have a disagreement on tactics as the real, concrete struggle opens up and develops in a way not actually fully anticipated, as is usually the case. But if anyone was not prepared to respond, as per the agreed position of the campaign, (and the SP), it was not JC or DC.

We do not however regard this disagreement as a fundamental or principled one. Those who argued, openly and honestly, such as Ciaran Perry from Cabra, that the campaign was too weak in those areas and could not be substituted for from outside, and it was better to organise blockades in the areas we were strong in, raised a valid point for discussion. There is no question of JC, DC, or BS who disagreed with this view denouncing people as showing weakness, being conservative and so on. And certainly not behind their backs!

The other issue of disagreement that came up at the same time was how to respond in the city to the attack on Fingal. It was agreed, again without any differences, the the city campaign would respond if any other council area was attacked first. It was agreed, again without dissent, that this would take the form of solidarity blockades in the estates.

The attack came first in Fingal. The city campaign organised blockades in Crumlin, Walkinstown, Drimnagh, Inchicore, Ballyfermot, the Liberties, Cabra, Stoneybatter, Finglas, Coolock, Donaghmede and East Wall. All members of the organising committee were involved in organising these protests, which consisted of surrounding a bin truck in an estate and holding it for a few hours.

The city campaign had taken the position it was better to organise blockades in the estates rather than at the depots, as it would be easier to involve people and give them a mass character. There was a danger that at the depots it would be the activists only. Theory is grey however, and the tree of life is evergreen. As the campaign developed, and given the salami tactics of the councils, blockades on depots became necessary.

The other tactical question that came up was after about two weeks into the struggle in Fingal, whether the solidarity blockades should be stepped up into all out blockades in the city. This position was advocated by the SP leadership at an activist meeting of the campaign. A very lively discussion took place. DC argued for caution, as the bins were being collected in the big working class estates, all out action, preventing the bins from being collected, might split working class support for the campaign. If however, as was very likely, Joe Higgins and Clare Daly were jailed, it would be possible then to win mass support for all out action.

This position was voted for by a big majority of the activists at the meeting. While this approach could be said to be conservative, it can not by any stretch of the imagination be described as a fundamental, principled opposition to the tactic of blockades, as is now claimed. JH and CD were jailed within a short time, as were DC and 13 other activists from the city for stepping up the protests and defying the courts.

In response to this, the four campaigns organised blockades at bin depots in the four council areas. This was an attempt to bring matters to a head. Neither JC or DC, who was in jail in anyway, opposed this tactic. However there were difficulties in co-ordinating the actions of four different campaigns in a situation where events developed rapidly. What was needed was some sort of structure where appointed people from the different campaigns could get together quickly and work out what could and needed to be done. This did not exist, and the reasons why will be dealt with later.

There was a lot of messing about going on. For example, there was a meeting of the city campaign on a Monday evening, in the week when on that Wednesday over 30 people were up in court and likely to be jailed. There were different proposals at the steering committee. Diarmuid Naessens proposed that blockades should take place on Wednesday to coincide with the court. DC proposed that there should be a protest on the court on Wednesday and blockades on Thursday when, if people were jailed, there would be a bigger turnout. These ideas were then taken to an activists' meeting, which was not well attended, but which decided that only two depots should be blockaded, because of the problem previously of getting sufficient numbers out. It was agreed that these would be the depots at Collins Avenue and Rathmines

Some problems in a campaign of this type could be expected when the pressures came on. What was needed was a leadership who understood the need for maximum unity in action, and were prepared to compromise on secondary issues to achieve that. In reality what opened up was a struggle by different political groups to try and grab the leadership of the struggle. The SP were the prime movers in this respect as shall be dealt with later. The SWP leadership then began to argue that while the bins were being collected there should be no attempt to stop the service.

As a result, what happened in the course of that week was a shambles. On Wednesday there was only a very small protest at the courts. The SP put a protest on the Davit Road depot in Drimnagh, consisting of a handful of party members. There was in effect no blockade on Rathmines. The four campaigns then agreed there would be a big mobilisation for blockades throughout Dublin on the following Monday.

JC organised a meeting in her area to mobilise for that and succeeded in getting people to take time off work. Then it was announced at the trades council demo that the blockades were to be on Tuesday. The reason given for that was that there was to be a protest on Fingal Council on the Monday. JC objected to this and argued for going ahead with the original agreed proposal. On Monday people from Crumlin and Drimnagh, having taken time off work, turned up for a blockade that was cancelled. On Tuesday only a very small and shortlived token protest was mounted in Fingal.This is incredibly the basis for the SP leadership's claim that JC publicly opposed the party line. We are entering into the world of the Judean Peoples Front versus the Peoples Front of Judea.

As it turned out, the blockades were highly successful in stopping the bin service, especially in the city, and if they could have been maintained, could have forced the council and the state back. But they had to be called off after two days. The problem previously anticipated of blocking the depots, that it would tend to be political activists in the main, was borne out.

The claim that there were principled differences between those who advocated so called 'direct action' tactics and those who didn't, or didn't really when it came to the push, when it is aimed at people who ended up in prison, and is not raised publicly, giving them a chance to defend themselves, is a disgraceful fabrication. It represents what will hopefully only be a temporary break with the proud 30 year tradition of the Militant/SP of intervening in an open, honest and serious way in workers' struggles.

There is one other behind the scenes fabrication which needs to be dealt with. There is the claim circulated by an element in the SP leadership that the leadership of the city campaign sowed illusions that the bin tax could be defeated by a vote on Dublin City Council. It has even been claimed that we had a 'victory' social planned to celebrate the event at the time of the estimates meeting in December 2003, The argument goes that too much time was invested in putting pressure on the councillors to the detriment of building the campaign in working class communities.

They claim to have written material produced by the campaign to back up this nonsense. Why has nobody seen this material? Because it doesn't exist. Why has the SP not raised such an important criticism of the campaign? Once again there has been nothing about this in the Voice, it was not raised at the conference.

The reality is that anyone who was actually involved in the campaigns' activities and meetings would have laughed at this nonsense. It is correct that the campaign put a certain amount of emphasis on these questions, but at every stage went out of our way to explain that the key question was non payment, defending people in the courts, stopping non collection, and to do this, needing to have an active campaign. Anyone with ears, and who was actually there, will tell you that at the end of every protest on the council, DC in summing up the protest, explained that even if the Councillors voted out the charge, the government would abolish the council and the battle would continue with non payment, etc.

However, if the Councillors had voted out the tax, and the council was abolished, it would have strengthened our case significantly. The question of who runs the city, and the attacks on democracy that have accompanied the attempt to impose the bin tax are extremely important and well understood by workers across the city. Only the most simplistic ultra leftist would not understand to need to fight the battle on all fronts.

The protests on the council meetings, held in the city centre, were a focal point to show passing motorists and so on that there was an active campaign against the bin tax. It helped activists to meet activists from other areas, and it raised the need to be active and prepared to go outside your own area. This wasn't an alternative to building an active campaign in the communities but part of the process of doing exactly that.

The pressure on the Councillors, the 50/50 votes every year, forcing the government to change the law, taking away Councillors' rights to vote on these issues, demonstrated the unpopularity of the tax, the mass opposition to it , and the ability of the campaign to organise this pressure. This showed the campaign's support and strength. It did not weaken it in any way.

When the issue of a by-election came up in the water charges campaign in 1996, the same arguments against standing an anti water charges candidate were put forward by the anarchists. That was that the election would take over and building the campaign on the ground would be pushed in the background. The SP/Militant argued then that running a good campaign and getting a good vote would show the unpopularity of the charges, the mass opposition to them, and would help to build the campaign.

Once again, neither JC or DC, or anyone else has publicly opposed the SP on this issue. We have not had the opportunity to do so as it has never been raised by the SP. We now challenge the SP to intervene, publicly and openly and honestly in the anti bin tax campaign on this issue, putting forward their ideas and producing the material which they claim to have demonstrating the difference between our 'reformist and conservative' illusions in the ability to win this battle through a vote on the council as opposed to their 'revolutionary' tactics.

The SP leadership have repeatedly attacked, but never in public, the Dublin city campaign. The campaign has its weaknesses, but so do the other Dublin campaigns. The city campaign has built up a membership of about 10,000 members. iI has raised in the region of Euro 60,000. It is organised in all the main working class areas to the west of the city. It has come under huge attacks from the council over four years, through the courts, jailings, attempted non collection in some areas, and a massive propaganda offensive. The most recent figures show that less than one in three households have paid the tax.

The campaign has organised meetings of between 500 and 700 people on a regular basis in the big working class estates. At hundreds of meetings over four years, 1,000s of working people will have taken part in its discussions. On a number of occasions the campaign has produced and circulated material to 100,000 homes, including a four page tabloid earlier this year.

We believe this situation compares favourably with the Fingal, South Dublin and Dunlaoghaire/Rathdown campaigns. The SP leadership have never shown the same obsession with pointing out the weaknesses in those areas. Why? Kevin McLoughlin's astonishing reply when this was put him was 'two wrongs don't make a right'.

There are very important lessons which can be learned from the anti bin tax struggle in Dublin. These are important issues relating to the level of consciousness, combativity and organisation of the working class at this time, not just in Dublin, but in Ireland as a whole an internationally. In order to do this it is necessary to have a serious discussion.

We should not start with the weaknesses and negative points of this battle, but its strengths and positives. Right wing politicians and the establishment media have attempted to depict the campaigns as non existent in terms of real popular support and participation, and of being no more that 80 to 100 of the 'usual suspects'. But this campaign has, like the water charges, reached deep into the working class of Dublin. Along with the water charges it is the only serious mass struggle to have taken place since the 1990s. In Dublin city, it is the biggest struggle of its type since the Housing Action campaign in the 1960s, forty years ago.

It is seen by workers not just as an issue over bins, or even of the general injustice of the tax system, but of society in general. It has raised the class question of there being one law for the rich and one for the rest of us when it comes to paying taxes, ending up before the courts, or spending time in jail.

It has raised as practical questions the need for solidarity in action, the need to struggle, the need to organise and get involved. It has demonstrated once again the betrayal of the union leadership. It has raised the consequences of privatisation for workers and their pay and conditions, and the impact on services for the community. In other words, it has had a very positive effect on the consciousness of wide layers of the working class. it has allowed the small forces of the left make an important connection with workers in the key working class areas of the city.

These are important gains which can be built on for the future. This has been achieved against a background of a general retreat in working class consciousness and organisation over the 1990s to the present, the criminal sabotage of the struggle by the right wing union leaders, and a massive propaganda barrage by the capitalist media.

The weaknesses of the campaign flow not from this or that mistake by its leadership, but from the latter factors mentioned above. It is really noticeable when you look at the city campaign that its strong areas are the older traditional working class areas of the city, in the south west from Crumlin across to Ballyfermot, and in the north west from Cabra into Finglas, along with parts of the inner city like East Wall and the Liberties.

There is a long tradition, although weakened by the 1990s, of working class organisation and struggle in these areas. Two factors came together in these areas. Firstly the general response of working class people, and then a key ingredient, a small layer of committed political activists from various groups who could bring some experience of organisation to the campaign. One real weakness that has been shown is that there are large parts of the city, especially on the north side, where the combined left does not have a single member!

This proved to be a real difficulty when it came to trying to develop the campaign into areas like Raheny, Donaghmede, Edenmore, Santry, and Whitehall. In Raheny and Donaghmede local people have been active but have not had the benefit of having more experienced people to work regularly with them as in other areas.

Rather than pointing the finger at certain members of the co-ordinating committee(who unlike those criticising them actually did some work in these areas), the SP should look to the real problem. How can a new layer of worker and youth activists be developed across the city?

In the past the unions, and to a lesser extent, the left in the Labour Party, would have provided a vehicle for people to become active on a regular basis, learn how to organise in the workplace and in the community, and to meet and exchange experiences and take part in political discussion. The workers' movement has been driven back to an alarming degree, even in comparison to the period of the water charges, and to build these campaigns in this situation is a considerable achievement.

The other real difficulty that the campaigns faced was the very varied response from council workers to non collection and from the workplaces in general when people were jailed. All workers today are under tremendous pressures in their workplaces. The full weight of the betrayal of the union leaders and the offensive by the bosses is to be felt here. Only about 10% of workers in the private sector are now unionised. Even where there is a union, real shop floor organisation is extremely weak.

How can it be explained that when Clare Daly was jailed, workers in Dublin Airport, the biggest workplace in the country, where Clare is a well known and respected shop steward, at a meeting called to discuss the issue, decided reluctantly that they could take no action?

Is there something wrong with these workers; or is there something wrong with Clare Daly's role in the airport? The answer is no on both counts. It is simply a reality that the workers felt if they took action it would invite a huge response from management and the government, and possibly lead to privatisation and the loss of their jobs.

The march called bt the Dublin Council of Trade Unions attracted about 5,000 people. In the circumstances that was ok, but it was used by the union leaders to ensure there was no follow up. This situation can be compared to that of the 1960s and 70s, when workers were jailed. Then mass pressure from below forced the national union leadership into issuing the threat of national action, which was taken seriously by the establishment who released the workers. The difference then is that it was a period of high industrial struggle, strong shop floor organisation and as a result a confidence among workers that they could do something.

A key problem for the campaigns in Fingal and South Dublin was the response of the council workforce to non collection. They accepted it and this has led to a defeat for both campaigns on non collection. The response by workers in the city has been much better. Their position of working to rule means that the council has to send out inspectors or litter wardens with the trucks to implement non collection and so far they have only been able to do this on a limited basis. There is of course no guarantee that this situation will continue given the pressure on the workers and the rotten role of the union leaderships.

This situation in the workplace shows the real problem of organising any sort of struggle at the present time. There is a long way to go in rebuilding the organisation and confidence of the working class in the key area, the workplaces. Unfortunately, none of the forces of the left have any base of any consequence, in any workplace around the country.

Any serious marxist analysis of the bin tax struggle would begin from these factors. Marxists do not examine an event in the class struggle only from the point of view of the working class. They look at the role of all the class forces involved in the battle. When the bin tax was introduced large numbers of the middle classes did not pay it. They don't like paying taxes in general. But when the heat came on it was inevitable that these layers would buckle.

The non payment figures have to seen from these perspective. Payment in the overwhelming middle class areas is much higher than 30%, it would be closer to 90%. The same situation would apply to non payment in the overwhelming working class areas. No disrespect to ' The Committments' but the class divide in Dublin is not between the north side and the south side, but between the east and the west of the city.

There is of course no such thing as a 100% middle class or working class area, but this explains why the strong areas of the campaign are in general in the west of the city, and why it was inevitable that real battle would come down at some point to a showdown in these areas.

The other key class involved is the capitalist establishment. The balance of class forces internationally were changed dramatically by the collapse of the Soviet Union. Along with the economic boom, especially on the stock exchange. This give a new confidence to the ruling class internationally.

The Irish capitalist class are a historically weak class, coming late onto the scene of history. Unlike their other European counterparts they did not play a historic progressive role in overcoming feudalism, establishing independent states and the basis for the modern capitalist economy and societies. They played no role in the struggle for independence, and assumed power only on the basis of a civil war in the 1920s, armed and supported by British Imperialism.

They have failed to develop an indigenous industrial base. The economy is completely dominated by foreign capital. For sixty years they rested on a social base provided by the moral authority of the Catholic Church in an extremely backward and repressive society, which exported the best and brightest of each generation in their millions. The corruption scandals shows the irish bourgeois for what they are, a greedy, grabbing, parasitic, class of gombeens open for sale to the highest bidder.

The moral authority of the Catholic church imploded with the paedophile scandals of the 1990s, but this was a process which was inevitable and had actually begun as far back as the 1960s with the increased industrialisation and urbanisation of Irish society. The process was merely speeded up and reached its climax in the 90s.

However the phenomenon of the 'Celtic tiger' boom, allayed to the retreat by the workers' movement, and the full scale co-operation of the trade union leadership, has given them a confidence in taking on the working class as never before and forcing through the neo liberal agenda. Southern ireland is now rated as the most 'globalised' economy in the world.

Winning a victory on the bin tax in these circumstances will be much more difficult that it was when the water charges were defeated in Dublin in the 1980s and then again in the 1990s. This does not mean that the battle cannot be won, or indeed that it was a mistake to engage in it in the first place. Victory cannot be guaranteed in any battle, and certainly not in the class struggle. But given any reasonable chance of success, it is better to fight and lose than not to fight at all.

At the very least the capitalist class will know that it has been in a fight, and will have to take account of that in its future plans to dramatically increase the bin tax, bring back water charges and taxes on other services, and privatisation of local services.

At this stage it is difficult to see the outcome of the battle. The setbacks in Fingal and South Dublin are a serious blow. An outright victory with the abolition of the bin tax does not look the most likely. It is possible that in a certain sense this will be a drawn battle, with the tax remaining, but with concessions won in relation to how often people use the service, how much it costs, a relatively generous waiver scheme remaining in place, and the conditions to make it attractive for privatisation not achieved.

It is also possible that if large numbers of people withdraw from the service, as seems to be the case in Fingal and South Dublin, over time the government will have to review the situation given the possible effects of that on the environment and the threat to public health. It is also possible that non collection cannot be implemented in the big working class estates in the city and that the present situation would continue, with high levels of non payment. Eventually this would also force the government to review funding for local authorities.

While maintaining its activity on the other fronts, it is important that the campaigns mount a serious challenge in the June local elections. Getting even a small group of councillors elected, to be the core of a serious opposition on the councils, and registering a good vote in general would be a major coup for the campaigns. We will come back to this question later.

The other thing that marxists do not do, or at least should not do, when trying to seriously analyse events in the class struggle, is only listen to themselves. Regretfully and again breaking with the tradition of the SP/Militant, the present SP leadership in Dublin have been extremely reluctant to engage in a real and meaningful dialogue with the activists actually involved in the city campaign. They are only interested in the opinions of those who are prepared to accept without questioning, their 'leading role'.

Anyone who has led any sort of struggle. a strike for example, will know the importance of weighing up all the factors involved very carefully, taking account of the different levels of consciousness and combativity of the workers involved, and listening very carefully, especially to those who raise questions.

After all, this is the point of having a party with a base in the working class. It is not just a mechanism for conveying the programme, and the strategy and tactics of the party and its leadership into the movement, it is also a mechanism for a dialogue, taking the different views, moods, etc. of the working class and its different layers into the party for discussion to inform its debate and the decisions of its leading bodies.

A much broader and more detailed discussion than it is possible to go into here on the lessons of the bin tax struggle so far would be very beneficial for the left in Dublin. We can all learn from this, including the SP leadership. The struggle is not over , and learning the lessons from what really happened in the autumn will be crucial when non collection is attempted again in the city. The SP leadership, which includes people like JH and CD, can play an important role in helping to learn those lessons, but first they have to drop the childish claims that they, and they alone, have the monopoly on he right ideas, tactics and strategy.

The real source of the anger and vindictiveness of the SP leadership towards JC and DC lies not in a public disagreement over fundamental tactics in the bin tax battle but over our refusal to go along with their manoeuvring to take control of the campaign. The Dublin City Anti Bin Tax Campaign was established out of an initiative taken by the SP. This involved calling a meeting back in early 2001 to which the SWP WSM and the WP were invited.

It was agreed then that these groups would work together to establish a unified, broad based campaign, based in the communities, and using the water charges campaign as a model. An organising committee was set up with a representative of each of each of the groups involved. DC was the SP representative. Each group put in Euro100 to get material out, call meetings etc. It was agreed that once a campaign had established a base in the working class areas, a structure to reflect that would be put in place.

In the spring of 2002 a conference took place, attended by 100 people from the different areas where campaigns had been established. Four officers were elected and it was agreed that monthly activist meetings, made up of representatives from the areas, would be the key place where decisions would be taken. The former organising committee, made up of representatives of the political groups was dissolved.

This structure proved less than perfect. The attendance at activist meetings was up and down. If something was happening, 80 people might turn up. On other occasions, nobody but the officers might show. We ran up against the problem that most non politically involved activists in the campaign were not used to, or didn't, see the point in going to meetings outside their own areas. Given this situation, it was proposed that while maintaining the activist meetings, we should broaden out the officers into a co-ordinating committee with representatives from the biggest and most active campaign areas.

Creating a structure which is both democratic and gives the maximum involvement of people in discussion and decision making, but which is also gives an effective way of making decisions and getting them carried out is not easy in campaigns of this type. No one has yet come up with the perfect formula for doing this. Left wing political activists played a key role in providing a spine for the campaign. But they were also the people most likely to turn up at activists meetings, and the discussions were not always reflective or representative of the broader mass involved in the areas.

It was imperative to take this into account for decisions to have a real effect in mobilising real forces on the ground. Instead of playing a role which understood the need for bringing the greatest number of people with you. which meant having an inclusive and consensual approach on decision making, the SP leadership set about trying to take control of the elected bodies of the campaign.

When the government changed the Waste Management Act in the summer of 2003, in order to allow for non collection to be used as a weapon against non payment, DC proposed contacting the other campaigns with a view to discussing an agreed tactic to respond. A meeting was set up but when DC put the proposal to call an all Dublin conference to discuss non collection this was opposed. The reasons given were that the Fingal and South Dublin campaigns had not had conferences and been formally established . DC then proposed that there simply be an all Dublin meeting instead. This was also rejected. It is important to point out that at this time there were different ideas being put forward, such as the mass dumping of rubbish in some areas.

It became clear at this meeting there was another agenda at work, to force the city campaign into holding a conference, supposedly to discuss non collection but in reality to change the leadership. An agreement had been made by the SP leadership with Irish Working Class Action (WCA) to try and reduce the numbers of SWP members in the officers and on the organising committee, and to achieve a majority for themselves. So much for the agreement by the political groupings to make way for a leadership representing the different areas.

A discussion began at the top of the SP where JC registered her opposition to these manoeuvrings. The SP regional committee adopted a position that an organising committee be elected at the conference but not the officers. The officers would then be appointed by the organising committee on which they hoped to have a majority.

SP members should consider the nature of this manoeuvre. Awkward individuals like DC could be removed, but not in a straight vote at a conference of activists, where he would win.

Shortly before the conference, these issues came up for discussion at a meeting of the co-ordinating committee. This was a meeting attended by six people, hardly a public debate. DN raised the SP proposal. This was opposed by DC on the basis that whatever leadership was elected it should be done by the activists at the conference. Ciaran Perry (WCA) raised a different proposal from the SP. This was that there should be no officers, but a co-ordinating committee only. There was a vote in which CP and DN supported this position. JC abstained. A proposal by DC to elect officers and a committee at the conference, put forward by DC was carried with three votes. Again JC abstained. The SP proposal was not put to a vote.

When the conference took place there was no discussion on these issues. Officers and a committee were elected. There was no public debate on these issues in which JC or anyone else disagreed with the SP and again for the very good reason that they did not raise these questions before the activists in the campaign. JC was subsequently censored and then later removed from the SP regional executive, not for publicly voting against a SP motion, as has been claimed , but for abstaining on an anarchistic proposal put forward by a member of WCA at a meeting of six people!

The SP/WCA achieved a majority on paper of the officers and organising committee at the conference. There were five SP members( this included DC) and two WCA members out of eleven people. However this was not the case in practise. To varying degrees DC in particular, and to a lesser extent JC and EF opposed these attempts to 'control' the campaign. What happened then was the SP used its position in Fingal, not to establish a genuine link up of the four campaigns, but to try and control things through behind the scenes meetings with groups like WCA, WSM and ISN. It was this that created the shambles last October of events being called, or called off or changed by a small group without any consultation with the people involved.

The SP leadership do not deny that these meetings took place. Publicly they say these were just meetings to discuss out ideas and proposals and were not secret. Why is then that three out of the five members of the SP on the campaign co-ordinating knew nothing about them? In private they say it was necessary to do this because of the conservative opposition of DC and the SWP and that things just needed to get done. In realty these meetings were used to go around the obstacle posed by the democratic structures of a campaign they wished to control. There is a world of difference between giving leadership by providing the best tactics and by the example of providing the best and most committed activists, and patiently winning people over to your point of view, and opportunistic manoeuvres to grab 'control'.

It was in protest at this opportunist, divisive and sectarian grab for control which DC resigned from the SP when in jail last October. The invention of so called fundamental differences to justify opportunism, or the elevation of minor issues to these so called fundamental differences are hallmarks of sectarianism. As chairperson of the campaign in the city it was impossible to defend these activities. DC waited until JH and CD were released from jail before quietly informing the SP leadership of his resignation . No public statement was made. This attitude can be compared to the attitude of the SP leadership to DC while he was in prison.

Their vindictive and petty attitude was appalling. Up to this point people jailed were put in the training unit of Mountjoy were there is a much more relaxed regime than general prison population. There was a more liberal regime there on visits, phone calls and so on, but also protesters were held together, and able to discuss, support one another and have a much better knowledge of what was going on outside. But two protesters, one of whom was DC, were separated and put in Clover Hill, in the general prison population, allowed one 15 minute visit and one 6 minute phone call a day, only to two agreed numbers which could not be changed. We were much more isolated.

With the notable exception of JH, who made a call to JC, even though he was in prison, no other member of the SP leadership contacted JC to see if we were OK, or indeed if she needed any support. Far more seriously, when the Ballyfermot/Inchicore anti bin tax campaign organised a march to Clover Hill which is in this area, only JC and EF from the SP went on it. There was no SP banner. This was a political statement and quite an incredible one when you consider that DC was a leading member of the SP/Militant for 30 years and was still a party member at the time.

When EF raised this in the SP a certain Steven Boyd launched into a rant about DC being an enemy of the party. (Where have we come across this sort of language before? What's next? Gestapo agent?) JC then wrote to the leadership demanding a retraction of this nonsense. It was in the discussions which followed where they expressed their concerns about JC standing in the local elections. What had changed since the Voice announced JC as a candidate and the new position now adopted?

After 17 years of hard work and loyalty JC was informed in these discussions that she was not trusted. What crime has she committed? There is no record of knowingly opposing the party in public. She has raised questions with the SP leadership. She does live with an enemy of the people, sorry party, namely DC. But there is nothing in the SP constitution which forbids either of these, so far in any rate.

We will only make a few brief points in relation to the claim of differences on a number of other issues referred to in the letter from the SP leadership. This refers to firstly work in broader campaigns. There are quite clearly differences in relation to how the party intervened in the bin charges campaign. As to what other areas of broad work, we would like to hear those outlined.

As to the issue raised of differences in estimating the mood of the working class, we are also in the dark as to what this actually means. On the question of a new broad party of the working class, again it is necessary to spell out clearly the areas where there actually are differences, and to see how fundamental they actually are, and again if these differences have emerged in public.

The SP, and the organisation to which it is affiliated, the CWI, are in favour of new parties of the working class to replace the old Labour and Social Democratic parties, and Communist Parties. These parties had a mass base of support in Europe (though this was never the case with the Labour Party in ireland). The CWI believes that new mass parties will emerge as part of the process of rebuilding the workers' movement, and though not revolutionary parties, They will play a vital role in the task of preparing the working class for the struggle to change society.

Putting forward the idea of the need for a new, broad party of the working class in Ireland is not in anyway contradictory to the programme of the SP or the CWI. In the February issue of Socialism Today, produced by the SP in England and Wales, dealing with the Respect initiative by George Galloway, it says "The socialist party supports candidates standing in elections who put forward a clear alternative in opposition to New labour, or clearly represent a step towards a new, mass workers' party". It states further in terms of capitalising on the mass opposition to the war, " the best way of doing this would have been for Galloway, and the other leaders of the anti war movement, to have launched the call for a new party at the time of the million and a half demonstration in London".

In the same journal, a report on the LCR/LO's electoral alliance in France, makes the point that "a good result will encourage workers but, under the LO/LCR's plans, it will not offer a political instrument for the millions of people who will vote for the list ; a new mass workers' party". We refer anyone who is interested in this question to a pamphlet, The Case for a New Mass Workers Party by Christina Thomas, produced by the SP in England and Wales some two years ago.

We have no difference with this position. We have however argued that the SP in Ireland should adopt a much more positive stance in terms of advocating such a party in Ireland. But when it is raised, such as at the time of the 100,000 strong anti war demo in Dublin, that this was an opportunity to boldly advance this part of the party programme and receive a really good response, to SP leadership are dismissive, saying there is no basis at this time for such a party.

First it is necessary to make the very basic point that Marxists do not advocate, or include in their programme, demands for things for which there is "no basis". The socialist revolution, or building a socialist society is not posed as a task of the day at the present time, but that does not mean there is no basis for advocating it and including such demands in our programme. Marxists have well established the basis for socialism on a historical and theoretical level.

This theoretical sloppiness does a disservice to the ranks of the SP. There is a basis for a new workers' party, both internationally and in Ireland. The basis for such parties exists in a theoretical study and analysis of the historical process of the class struggle, and the role such parties have played in the past and are capable of playing in the future. They form part of the tradition of the working class and occupy an important place in the broad consciousness of the working class.

Even though there was never a mass workers' party in Ireland, in the sense of the Labour party in Britain, or Social Democracy in Northern Europe or the CPs in France or Italy, the iIish Labour Party could be said to have represented a "pre formation" for such a party in the past . It of course does not do so today. This by the way puts this question somewhat into perspective, when we talk of a "new mass workers' party". The Labour party would have has some 1,000, of members, it was able on occasion to get as high as 20% of the vote, but it was never a mass party.

It never won even the electoral support of a majority of workers, let alone be capable of leading mass social movements, which is the role of such a mass party. Anyone who believes that such a social formation can be called into being overnight, does not live live in the real world. Such a party can only emerge out of huge events in the class struggle, over a period of time. Pre formations for such a party will emerge first, and it is inevitable that there will be false starts and dead ends in the process.

Parties can emerge like the RC in Italy, which has won a significant section of the most militant workers and youth in Italy where there have been huge struggles such as the mass movement and general strikes which brought down the first Berlesconi government in the mid 90s. It can achieve about 10% of the vote in Italy. But it is not excluded that the RC, depending on the role it plays when key questions are posed in the class struggle, whether it moves to the right or the left , can be bypassed by some other formation on the road to a mass party in Italy. In fact, because we are in a different and extremely unstable period now, as opposed to the post war period, the creation of stable mass workers parties such as existed in the post war period, is very unlikely.

Such parties, or more likely the pre formations of such parties, will almost inevitably be reformist in character, and are doomed to fail the test of great events. Only a party with a revolutionary programme can successfully lead the struggle to overthrow capitalism. But nevertheless, such parties can play a key role in mobilising the working class, and providing a forum for the test of ideas and programmes for activists, and raising the consciousness of the working class in general. They will play a key role in the essential task of building revolutionary parties of the working class, which unfortunately do not exist, anywhere, at the present.

To speak of there being "no basis" for such a party in Ireland is to make nonsense of Marxism. What the SP means if you leave aside the theoretical looseness (for which there is never any justification) is that the forces to bring such a party, or even a pre-pre-pre formation for such a party into existence, do not exist at present. We agree with that, despite the scale of the anti war movement, and the bin tax battle.

But the question doesn't end there. The SP position, that we are in in favour of a new party, but there is no basis for it now, and their hostile attitude to any discussion of this question, and implacable opposition to any initiative in its direction, gives their inclusion of this demand in their programme a purely formal character. This is an extremely dangerous road to travel. This is, at this stage an unfortunate situation, but if it is not corrected it can lead to a disaster for the SP.

This situation has arisen out of what can only be described as an obsession of behalf of the Sp leadership with the SWP. Their formally correct position on the question of a new workers' party has been subverted by their determination not to give, as they put it, ' a leg up to the SWP". This has led the party into the most convoluted and dishonest posturing on the issue of standing a list or slate of anti bin tax candidates in the upcoming local and European elections.

Before dealing with that, we want to put our position on the question of a new party and what we believe should be the SP position. We have never advocated that the SP take the initiative in setting up a new party, or of becoming involved in a left alliance or socialist block which has been advocated by the SWP. We believe that just bringing the existing left together, which is all that could be achieved, is a recipe for a sectarian circus, which would very quickly repel the small amount of workers who may have got involved.

The experience of the bin tax struggle has borne this out. The rank and file members of the various left groups make up the majority of the best class fighters around at this time, but inevitably, when these forces are brought together the struggle to control, score political points of each other, and generally justify their reasons for separate existence, very quickly out weight any desire they might have had to work together.

It would only be in a far broader movement, involving an active working class element, that pressure could be brought to bear to impose some discipline on these tendencies. that is the crucial test for any new formation on the left. Could it bring into play new forces, an active working class element which would put its stamp on the formation?

Putting forward a positive position on the need for a new party is not in any way contradictory to refusing to join a socialist alliance or socialist block. All we have asked is that the SP put forward its position clearly and in a positive and consistent manner.

There are steps which could be taken now, and which should have been taken over the last few years, to raise the need for a new party of the left and got a very positive response from a wide layer of working people. For example, the re-election of Joe Higgins and Seamus Healy, plus a number of new independent DS with some form of left credentials was a significant result in the last general election. The SP could have taken the initiative then to have a series of public meetings and debates, involving those elected, to raise and discuss the issue of a new party. Instead it contented itself with establishing a technical group in the Dail.

To push the SP into a more positive position on this question does not mean advocating that the SP itself should be wound up. It is again not in any way inconsistent for a party like the SP to advocate and campaign for a new broad working class party while maintaining its own right to its political and organisational integrity as a separate force.

The debate in the CWI over the launching of the SSP was not a simple question of a revolutionary party versus a non revolutionary party. The CWI leadership had no principled opposition per se to the setting up of a broad party. What was at issue was what would happen to the forces built up on the basis of revolutionary marxist ideas over 30 years.

The CWI's opposition was to the dissolving of those forces organisationally and politically into a broad formation. It argued instead for a political and organisational regrouping of its Scottish section, which had become seriously weakened both in terms of its political understanding and organisation through the prioritisation by its leadership over a number of years of work in the Scottish Socialist Alliance. There were never any differences in ireland over these questions. We supported the CWI leadership on these issues. There is no basis whatever to the never openly stated but implied insinuation that DC favoured a "Scottish turn" in ireland.

We come now to the question of an anti bin tax list or slate for the local and European elections in Dublin. Having been members of the SP until very recently, and involved in its leading bodies, we can state without any doubt, that the SP has been and remains absolutely determined not to become involved in any sort of election pact or list which would involve the SWP. However, given the events of last autumn, they had to respond to the pressure from working people that the bin tax campaigns should put up a united front and really put it up to the right wing parties, and labour, in the june elections.

They therefore came up with the public position that they were in favour of a slate of anti bin tax candidates, provided it contained genuine people who had actually had involvement in the struggle. On paper this sounds fine. Why give a platform to political opportunists to jump on the ban wagon? It is also the case that if a slate was open to anybody and everybody that some people with no real creditability would have stood, getting derisory votes and weakening the overall effect and thus the campaign.

The reality though was different. the SP were not concerned with putting forward a creditable list of candidates, but of ensuring that there was no list. At a meeting of the four campaigns to discuss a possible all Dublin list, it was quickly clear that we were not facing a situation where anybody and everybody was trying to get themselves onto this list. There could have been a list of twenty plus candidates, all of whom had played some role in building the various campaigns, and were likely to be nominated as candidates by local campaigns.

If an agreement had of being reached it would have been possible to stand in all the wards in Fingal, in four out of five in both South Dublin and the same in Dunlaoighaire/Rathdown, and in eight out of eleven wards in the city. This would have compared favourably to say parties like the greens and SF. It would have been possible to get 15,000 to 20,000 votes, and between three and five or more people elected. The same number of votes could have been won for Joe Higgins in the European poll. It would have been possible to create a certain impact in the media on this basis. There is no way that this could be interpreted as a weakness by the campaigns.

Instead the SP insisted on a limited list, which included only those SWP candidates who they couldn't argue against. When it was proposed by people at this meeting that areas where there was a question mark over the local campaigns' level of organisation and activity, such as in Ringsend or Coolock/Artane, we could write to the membership, calling a meeting and then judge whether to support candidates on the basis of the level of turnout and local support, This was rejected out of hand. so was a proposal to facilitate a meeting between the SP and SWP ( who had made clear their willingness to co operate and withdraw one or two candidates) to try and resolve differences. The SP eventually gave an ultimatum; either their version of the list or they would not participate in it.

The upshot of all this is that there is no list. An opportunity both for the campaign, and for taking a step that would have helped raised the potential for a new left force has been lost. (There will however still be twenty plus candidates standing with the bin tax as a key issue in their manifestos.)

The questions about building the SP flow from these differences. We do not believe that our approach as to how to intervene in the movement, or on the issue of a new party, are inconsistent with the politics and tradition of the CWI or SP?Militant in Ireland. This article is already too long to go any further into these questions. We hope that members of the SP take some time to consider the issues raised here. We apologise for having to go into some detail about meetings and who said or did what, but it is necessary to try and get at the facts, and where they are disputed, to hear both sides of the story.

Finally to come back to the letter to JC from the SP leadership. The SP leaders have sold this to their members with the dishonest argument that JC was only asked to agree to something which any of the other party candidates would have agreed to. Why didn't they ask all the candidates to sign up to this letter so?

The fact of the matter is that JC was singled out for special treatment. Here is a flavour of this harmless letter and the five conditions involved: (1) 'differences mentioned earlier are discussed.......with a view to resolving them in advance of the election......(5) ' In the event of a change in our representative's political or personal circumstances......the position remains with the party'. This point is clarified by the amazing 'some of the points above flow from important political issues that have emerged recently, like the abuse of the political process by the establishment parties'. Only a person with absolutely no political integrity would have agreed to this outrageous letter.

Post script

Since this article was written the SP have now come out openly with their criticisms of the Dublin city campaign in an article in Socialist View. This is the first time, in a campaign that is four years old, that the criticisms they have been making behind the scenes are made public. What purpose is served by this? Again the point needs to be made, if these questions were so important why weren't they raised in the campaign? For example, it would have been very easy to put forward a resolution to any of the conferences held, raising their doubts

author by 3rdpublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 12:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Firstly we have seen the Sectarian shit of Hadden and co in the North which has left them completely isolated from genuine activists in the North. {As seen by their recently well built for meeting which resulted in a few of themselves only, sitting in a room talking amongst eachother about being the left alternative} But I did not realise they where up to the same in Dublin to this extent. Have to circulate this article. Well written.

By the way the SP in the North stood two candidates in East and South Belfast with only one branch based in the city Centre so that argument is Bollix. So the story unfolds. Have to e-mail people to read this one also.

author by Aoife Ni Fhearghail - SWP South Inner Citypublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 12:40author email aoifenf at yahoo dot co dot ukauthor address D6Wauthor phone 087 7955013Report this post to the editors

While not being completely au fait with the arguments within the anti-bin tax committee I live in Kimmage/Crumlin where Joan is hopefully still running and am well aware of the very active role that she has played organising the local anti-bin tax campaign.

Were it not for the trojan effort that she and others have put in over the last number of years the local campaign would be well and truly dead at this stage. As it is, local opposition has ensured that even after a number of attempts at non-collection, the bins of non-payers are still being collected in our area.

The viscious attack that this government has launched against the working class, students, the unemployed and immigrants would surely lead any socialist who believes even 10% of what we all rant about to conclude that the time for petty sectarian hatred is over and that the urgency of building a united socialist alternative to FF/PD corruption and greed and Labour/SF political dithering is upon us.

The anti-war movement, the anti-capitalist movement and the anti-bin tax campaign shows that the potential for building a united left alternative (painful committee meetings aside!) has never been more viable. We can only hope that the very genuine comrades within the SP can dilute the influence of their 2 rotten apples and get on with the business of building that alternative.

If Joan is still running please add me to the list of canvassers in the area.

Aoife 087 7955013

author by Indymedia Ireland Editorial Group - Indymedia Irelandpublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 14:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Any further attempts to disrupt this article will hereby be considered as an attack on data, pursuant to the Criminal Damage Act. Indymedia Ireland would then be ultimately entitled to seek damages from the spammer.

author by Whingewatchpublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 14:56author address author phone Report this post to the editors

All Connolly can do is moan, the whole world is against him. The SP, WCA, ISN and WSM all plotted against him. Isnt it much more likely that he was in the wrong and people had to find ways to work around an increasingly obstructive and destructive individual?

author by Left wingerpublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 14:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

So now the so called 'anarchist' indymedia censors are prepared to take contributers to this site through the capitalist courts?

The same courts that convicted anti bin tax activists and declared strikes illegal. You are frauds, this site is a pathetic joke.

author by Bobserpublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 14:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I am not a member of the Socialist Party and so I am not in a position to take up any of Dermot's points with regard to Joan's candidacy. If those points are made with the level of dishonesty found in his argument about the anti-bin tax campaign however I would be very skeptical of them.

You see I was active in the anti-bin tax campaign, which means that I am able to spot the quite incredibly dishonest premise on which the bulk of his article is based. That is the idea that there was no significant political and tactical division in the City area bin tax campaign.

In fact there was just such a division. The SWP, and to varying extents Dermot and Joan took a massively more cautious strategic approach to the struggle, particularly when the shit was hitting the fan in Fingal. In fact in all three of the other campaigns the SWP were running around arguing against and trying to limit the implementation of solidarity action. The SP, WCA, ISN and WSM by contrast took the view that serious and escalating solidarity action was the order of the day.

For Dermot to try to write this division out of history is completely and totally dishonest. All of the varying groupings and many of the individual activists involved in the campaign were well aware of the existence of this tactical dispute at the time. It existed. It happened. And Dermot only damages his own credibility by trying to tell people like me that we didn't see what we saw and we didn't hear what we heard. It isn't only the SP who refuse to forget the importance of those divisions, the rest of us have memories too.

I'm just about to go and find the relevant extracts from the account of these divisions published by Colm Breathnach of the Irish Socialist Network recently. I will also get the account published by the SP. Those who weren't there and who therefore don't have their own memories to cause them to treat Dermot's account with appalled disbelief should read Colm's statement in particular.

author by Bobserpublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 15:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

More shocking, attempts to escalate the action were hampered by a number of lefts in leading positions (including officers of the campaigns) in the Dublin City and Dun Laoghaire campaigns, particularly the Socialist Workers Party. At best these people displayed extreme nervousness and conservatism. At worst, they resisted and tried to block direct action at precisely the time when it was necessary.

Their outlook was very pessimistic, essentially they didn't have any real confidence that working class communities would participate in real civil disobedience and direct action. Their real position was that we should concentrate on the local elections in June 2004 to strike a blow against the bin tax, where they obviously hoped to use the issue and the campaign for their own self interests to get elected.

Rather than seeing the tactics of blockades and direct action as representing the best way of fighting the bin tax, they seemed to operate on the utopian hope that non-collection would not be implemented. When it was implemented and when the campaign responded by trying to ground the service, they feared the struggle would be brought to a head too quickly, that the campaign could be defeated quickly which would of course diminish their electoral chances!

This political opportunism was explained with arguments like "an escalation would be premature at this point; that activity showed be maintained but that blockades should only be organised in areas affected by non-collection; that people would not understand why the campaign was causing disruption while the councils were willing to collect bins in their area; that blockades were losing the campaign support". In other words that people wouldn't be able to understand, after all that had happened, with workers' representatives in jail, the need for co-ordinated militant action so that the campaign didn't fall into the trap of divide and conquer. Fortunately the views of the SWP and the other conservative elements in the campaign were out of step with the attitudes and understanding of the majority in the working class communities.

author by Bobserpublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 15:08author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It is often said that the real nature of political groups are revealed in the heat of struggle. The bin tax campaign has highlighted the organisational and ideological strengths and weaknesses of the various far left groupings. Perhaps more importantly it has indicated more clearly their relationship with the working class. At the height of autumns struggle most far left organisations and individuals were engaged to some extent in the campaign and a clear difference of perspective emerged. On the one hand the Socialist Workers Party, backed by Sinn Fein, argued for a campaign based on mass meetings and demonstrations with blockading and other forms of direct action being seen as measures of last resort. The basis for this view was that the decisive battle would be the local elections of summer 2004 where anti-bin tax candidates could make a breakthrough based on the work done over the years in the different localities. This position was somewhat undermined by the fact that in certain areas where the Socialist Workers Party claimed to be organising the campaign, only shadow campaigns, lacking a popular base, existed. The perception was that they had adopted this position because they were unable to deliver the goods when it came to mass direct action. There was a degree of truth to this perception because the majority of Socialist Workers Party activists are of middle class origin, many of them students who had no real connection with working class communities, though individual members, such as the jailed activist Brid Smith, had played an important role in limited number of areas. Sinn Fein on the other hand had failed to play any significant role outside of Finglas and seemed to view the campaign as an adjunct to their target of making a major breakthrough in the local elections.

On the other hand the Socialist Party and three smaller left groups active in the campaign on the north side of the city (Working Class Action, the Workers Solidarity Movement and the Irish Socialist Network) advocated mass direct action, especially after the jailing of the activists. In areas dominated by these forces frequent blockades of trucks and depots occurred. The areas where these groups were dominant tended to be the best organised and the most deeply rooted in the community. Public meetings attracted hundreds while dozens of people engaged in blockading action. There was little patience from this wing of the campaign for the more cautious, election orientated strategy. There was, however, a certain degree of suspicion amongst the smaller groupings that the Socialist Party saw the campaign as their property, to be led from above and switched on and off as it suited.

author by Derekpublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 15:09author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I am not a SP member but have talked to a few recently about this issue. For the SP, they wanted Joan to stand, as Dermot pointed out she is an excellent campaigner with a fine record and could well win a seat. However they had concerns about her standing. The concerns were surrounding her accountability to the party. As was stated above Joan did vote against the SP on the question of spreading solidarity action into the City Council. Essentially the SP wanted the 'all bins or no bins' tactic spread to councils across Dublin not just in Fingal in order to counteract the 'salami tactics' of the Council. Joan disagreed with this idea and publically voted against the SP at meetings. In this context the SP made it clear that as a SP candidate and a SP councillor she would have to speak, act and argue for the party's positions in public.This pledge is made by all SP reps. It was Joan that refused to undertake this pledge. I don't think the SP are wrong to insist that Joan undertake to argue the party position in public. If Joan were on the council as a SP rep do you think it fair that she goes off on solo runs? If she won a position on the council as a SP candidate then that seat is a SP seat not a Joan Collins seat.

The SP members I talked to about all this had great respect for Joan and really do regret that she has taken this decision. They are also very dissapointed that Joan is standing as an independent and not even as an 'independent socialist'.

author by 3rdpublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 15:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Many issues have been raised that genuine activists inside and outside the SP should be concerned about. I would suggest that if you believe that he was in the wrong then tell us why. Activists are well aware by now of the various tactics employed to attempt to direct attention away from the core issues. I really hope that the SP in the South unlike in the North does not revert to such tactics. As it may eventually lead them also into isolation from genuine activists if they where to continually attack those who are regarded as hard working and genuine.. I do not know the ins and out of these points raised but know some concerned are respected activists and raise very valid points. I also know the SP hold very genuine activists and therefore really hope that these activists address these issues, and if needs be to deal with them, as I can see begining.

author by Bobserpublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 15:26author address author phone Report this post to the editors

So what is Dermot trying to claim? That the SP were just making this up? That Colm and the ISN were just making it up? That I'm just making it up?

Does he think that if he repeats "there was no division" over and over that we will forget the role that the likes of the SWP played in trying to hold back this movement?

I note with a certain amusement that two member of the SWP were the first to comment on this thread, both desperately seeking to wring some party political advantage for themselves. Unfortunately their organisations record hasn't been erased. The old issues of Socialist Worker where they openly argued against solidarity blockades still exist (and in fact are probably available on their website). The old leaflets still exist. The memories of activists who sat in disbelief while they argued against solidarity blockades at public meetings still exist.

author by Sir Mixalotpublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 15:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

If "Derek" is not an SP member then why do his comments reflect, line for line almost, what the SP leadership has said about Joan?

author by Pat Corcoranpublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 15:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Bobser I would be more inclined to believe that you are not a SP member if you were to give your real name. The same goes for the other anonymous contributers on this thread. Dermot put his name to this article.

If you really believe that what you are saying is true then you should do the same.

author by Verbypublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 15:30author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It looks like it is Joan Collins who is the person to blame in my book. She voted against the party's position at a crucial time in the bin tax battle then when the SP asked her to agree to use any council position she won as a SP position she refused. I think the SP are right to insist that their candidates in the elections agree to be bound by their party's positions. It's hardly fair on the SP if their councillors are going about doing their own thing.

I think people on this site critisise the SP for their elected members for doing mad things against the Sp's policy, (ie Johnny McLaughlin voting against abortion and the QUB guy supporting an Army stand for example) then you critisise the SP for making sure their elected reps adhere to the party's policy and are accountable to their membership. Well, trolls make up your mind you can't legitimately critisise the SP on both fronts?

author by Derek (real name)publication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 15:35author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Maybe because I was reporting what the attitude is among the SP members that I was talking to about it.

I happen to agree with them as well. I think the position of the SP on this question is correct, they can't have candidates and councillors going on potential solo runs. By the way the issue was discussed recently at the SP conference and the leadership was backed unanamously on the issue.

author by Bobserpublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 15:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Pat, I don't really mind if people think I am a member of the SP. I'm not but I've been called a lot worse. I don't want to put my real identity up on this website, for good reasons.

Try engaging with what I am saying (and what the people from the ISN and SP were saying in the extracts I posted) rather than worrying about who I am. Either what I am saying and what they are saying is correct or it isn't.

For what it's worth, I think that the ISN account of the differences that arose in the campaign is slightly better than the SP one because it acknowledges the occasional suspicions amongst non-SP members on their side of the divide about the SP's attitudes too. This is hardly the attitude of an SP member, but hey, maybe I'm faking that too.

author by Paul O'Harapublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 15:42author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Firstly I think I have to say that nobody doubts that Joan was and is a great activist.

But I think that Joan along wiht the SWP and SF and some others played a conservative role during the bin tax campaign. Like the SWP Joan did not have the confidence that the campaign could win and that the key thing was the local elections. The Sp along with ISN and some others held the opposite position. So it is clear that the differences are political. It is not really about these peripheral issues, it is a political question. I also note that Joan is standing as an anti bin tax independent not as an anti bin tax socialist independent.

author by Pat Corcoranpublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 15:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Give your full name. Otherwise no one can know if you are really independent. This is a serious issue and I wish some SP members would come on here and publicly state their views.

For what its worth I believe the SP had the better position during the battle. But this does not mean that anyone raising an opposition viewpoint should be regarded as an enemy of the people.

author by Derekpublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 15:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I don't see why I should give my full name but I'll give it in any case. My full name is Derek Brennan.

You seem to hint that the SP believe that Joan is 'an enemy of the people'. That is not what SP people think at all. The SP will more than likely call for a vote for Joan and they did genuinly want her to stand as an SP candidate despite the differences over the bin tax.

author by Bobserpublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 15:59author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I forgot to mention another extremely dishonest thing about Dermot's account.

He consistently refers to "attacks on the Dublin City Campaign" when what he means is "criticism of certain conservative elements in the Dublin City Campaign". He uses a verbal trick to write out of the equation the other elements of the City area campaign - the SP, WSM, ISN, WCA and others - and pretend that the campaign in that area was synonymous with the people arguing a conservative line. I have news for you Dermot. That won't wash.

Finally, what's with referring to yourself in the third person? "DC" did this, "DC" did that, "DC" did the other? Has Dermot been hanging around the SWP so long that he has picked up Davy Carlin's Julius Caesar complex?

author by Factmanpublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 16:09author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Mick Gallagher is a careerist. He left because the SP would not back him as a local election candidate.

author by observerpublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 16:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

An SP member mentioning SF in a favourable manner!!

author by bin tax fanpublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 16:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

surley if he is a carrerist. i.e somebody looking for a long-term future in politics then the sp is the last place to be. p.s. great to see the inn-fighting. last weeks posts where all about how to create unity on the left and one campaign for Joe Higgins election, now its the split. If you repersent the best prospect for the working classes then god help them all. gods its funny though. the people front of judea Vs the judean peoples front. Gas, really gas.

author by Socialist Party Member - SPpublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 16:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Apologies for not giving name. Should really be working. Would like to ask one question for now though, i've just briefly skimmed through the article.

Dermot when you refer to 'we' is that yourself and Joan or others?

I think Aoife Ni Fearghail's post was gas, ye cheeky pup ye Aoife.

author by Xenapublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 16:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"surley if he is a carrerist. i.e somebody looking for a long-term future in politics then the sp is the last place to be"

Maybe that's why he left??

People have to remember that every single member that leaves the SP on a political basis and remains active is exalted on this site. In total it is only about 5 or 6 people. A few cranks leaving is hardly disunity.

author by Sergepublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 16:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I seem to recall that at a crucial moment Peter Hadden came to Dublin to help co-ordinate the SP work in the bin tax campaign (this, a man who has never led a successful struggle for anything, or built anything). It is therefore hardly a surprise that he brought with him the sectarian, cliquish and cultist mentality that has long ruined the SP in the North. It appears that he inflicted a similar approach in the south as well. There may have been internal disagreements on what to do, but the way this has played out highlights yet again the absolute folly of thinking a mass party can be built with everyone more or less in complete agreement, on every tactical detail as well as broad programmatic issues.

I would however put it to Dermot that his analysis needs also to look beyond the immediate bin tax issue. Whatever the SP leadership did here reflects their wider political orientation, played out internationally in the CWI over many years. This has seen complete intolerance of dissent and debate, the demonisation of anyone with divergent points of view, and splits/ expulsions galore (eg the US/ Pakistan/ Liverpool/ Scotland). In short, it goes beyond the flaws of one or two people - in particular, Peter Hadden. A whole world view seems to have outlived itself, and finds expression in the recurring sectarian nonsense of the SP leadership. When the same mistake is repeated time after time, with no sign of reflection on its nature, then the party concerned has made sectarianism into its guiding philosophy - one which ultimately will condemn it to a mere foot note in history, unless thoroughly corrected.

However important the bin tax debate, I would suggest that these broader issues are of more central importance, and should also be discussed.

author by Socialist View readerpublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 16:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"I seem to recall that at a crucial moment Peter Hadden came to Dublin to help co-ordinate the SP work in the bin tax campaign "

This did not happen. Peter was not even in the country, he was in Nigeria. Have a read of the article in the latest 'Socialist View', In his report about the CWI affiliate in Nigeria Peter Hadden clearly states that he was in Nigeria during the bin tax battle. So unless he has mastered bi-location this did not happen.

author by Insiderpublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 16:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Dermot Connolly mentions 10,000 members in Dublin city and Ä 60,000 collected for legal representation. Why is it that legal representation has been withdrawn and in recent months householders from Ringsend, Crumlin and the Navan Road have been hit with decrees, costs and witness expenses in the District Court? Why have the "campaigners" told householders that is not " economically viable " to be present in court on their behalf? Remember at mass meetings people were told that they would be supported if they were brought to court!

author by Frankpublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 16:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

When somebody with the integrity and background of Dermot Connolly raises serious issues like this, it has to be taken seriously. I hope his comments are taken on board by the SP rank and file.

author by 3 - rdpublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 16:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

For a moment I had thought that we had found the answer. If Hadden had of been around that would have explained a lot.

author by Watch Watchpublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 17:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

If Hadden was in Nigeria then he should have asked the section to amend their website. It says that the SP calls for a ... Socialist Federation of the British Isles.

author by head scratcherpublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 17:09author address author phone Report this post to the editors

What has Peter Hadden got to do with the bin charges in Dublin? Is he not based in Belfast?

author by HctNO.7publication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 17:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

think the question of where the money has gone is a very vailid one. Would like to know if money collected at the various protest meetings is being used for political campaigns for SP members and not for court cases.

author by Colm Breathnach - ISN (personal capacity)publication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 17:11author email breathc at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Bobser accurately quotes one paragraph of an article I wrote for Red Banner. I would urge people to read the whole article rather than this selective quote. Email me and I will forward the article.

While Dermot raises many important points some of which I agree with and others I would not, unfortunately its not really possible to have a useful discussion given the personalised attacks being launched by anonymous contributors. Suffice to say that those of us who are serious about maintaining a vibrant grassroots Anti Bin Tax campaign and building a new left party should be able to engage in rational discussion despite our differencces. So that rules out the 'debate' that has emerged on this thread.

I look forward to seeing Joan win a seat on the City Council and hopefully she will be joined by Ciaran, John, Brid etc. Then, comrades, we will have no choice but to sit down and talk it out!

author by Januspublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 17:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I would not be surprised if SP cadre believed Peter had the power of bi-location, as well as flight, mind reading and shapeshifting such is the awe in which he is held.

What I find interesting about this debate is the notion that after decades of involvement in the SP, these people 'suddenly' decided to take on the SP leadership. It all seems a bit Orwellian that one can move from trusted activist and official to public enemy number one in a moment.

Probably the reason I have the most sympathy with Joan and Dermot is that they were right. I believe the decision by the Campaign to prevent binmen collecting rubbish when they were willing to collect everyone's rubbish was of such stupidity that it almost makes one imagine it must have been made by Branch agents. It did split people's feelings on the issue. Simply from anecdotal conversation with people on my estate, it took them by complete surprise and they didn't understand it at all.

While not beliving in electoral politics alone to defeat the Charges, certainly there was a time and a place for militancy and non-payment had to be key, I am still aghast at the decision that was taken to stop bin collection when all bins were being collected.

If this makes me 'nervous' and 'conservative' fair enough, because it also makes me right. It was a serious and grevious tactical error, and if Joan and Dermot pointed that out they are to be commended, not pilloried.

I also think that the chances for Joan, capable activist though she is, of taking a seat in Crumlin are grossly exagerrated in this discussion, whether she runs as an Independent, Independent Socialist or SP. That said, if I lived in Crumlin, I'd be voting for her and urge other people to do the same.

author by sergepublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 17:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Apologies if my comment about Hadden was a mistake - I read a piece on the bin charges by him on the CWI website some time ago, which suggested he was based in Dublin for the duration. This impression may have been mistaken (although I would be susprised if he hadn't been without influence on SP policy in this area). But the main point I wanted to raise was that it seemed to me that Dermot's piece points to a wider problem than the bin charges campaign - a sectarian, cliquish and even cultist attitude to the rest of the left, and campaigns in general. In my view, this flows from a comletely mistaken general perspective, evaluation of Bolshevism and much else besides. Of course this mindset isn't unique to the CWI or SP. But the problems that are posed by its existence, and the consequent waste of so much time, talent and energy, go way beyond the bin tax issue. Witness the growing number of expelled and demonised dissenters, of which Dermot now seems to be one. However, unless the wider lessons are learned then people just go on to recreate the same dismal, circular loop of disaster under a new name. And a fresh generation is compelled to learn the lessons of their predecessors, albeit the hard way.

author by an editor (personal opinion)publication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 17:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Taking posters to the capitalist courts??
by Left winger Tuesday, Apr 20 2004, 1:57pm

"So now the so called 'anarchist' indymedia censors are prepared to take contributers to this site through the capitalist courts?"

How do you describe someone who attacks the site and specifically this thread with the hostile intent of making it unreadable/inloadable and knocking editors mailboxes out of action full of resulting deletions? A Contributor? More similar to the only group that has done this level of attack in the past I'd say - a nazi.

I personally an not 'an anarchist' and would be happy to use the courts or any other methods available to keep this non-commercial non-party political space open for news and discussion. That does not mean the same holds for other editors whi I'll not speak for.

I mean show me the alternative? The Mirror VS The IT Vs The Voice VS Socialist Worker vs Gimme a break.

BTW the offenders only contributions was enough copies of the word 'blah' to reach from here to kerry.

author by Muqtadapublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 17:34author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Breathnach states: "I look forward to seeing Joan win a seat on the City Council and hopefully she will be joined by Ciaran, John, Brid etc. Then, comrades, we will have no choice but to sit down and talk it out!" -
Don't hold your breath stickie boy for any of them winning seats or anyone agreeing to sit down and talk it out or should I say sell it out with you lot.

author by Colm Breathnach - ISN (personal capacity)publication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 17:56author email breathc at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone 087-9487554Report this post to the editors

Moqtada is very brave indeed, rather than debate or counter anything I wrote he/she hides behind a pseudonym and hurls abuse.

My name, email and phone number are attached as I have nothing to fear or hide in an open debate. Perhaps this coward might like to respond again with his or her real name and details. Unlike Moqtada I have the confidence in the socialist ideas I believe to debate them openly.

author by Observedpublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 18:33author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Sorry Harry Hatman but your the clown
Quote 1:
"Connolly, you really are a wanker, arenít you?"

Thats intelligent political argument. BTW I don't thinknhe'll answer yes, when you ask "Aren't you?"

Quote 2:
"Sinn Fein and some of the smaller lefties like WSM...did play a small but generally positive role".
1) Sinn Fein argued with some members arrested during struggle to apologise in court and not go to jail, others paid their bin charge and still they argue today that they led the struggle- What a cheek!

2) WSM-played positive role? How and when did they connect with the masses?? Them and whos pet dog in cyber space??

Wake up.

author by larry byrne - ex- boxerpublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 20:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

the real problem i have with this article is that dermot and joan have themselves failed to publicly raise any concerns over the last 2 years.
why now- because they are out in the wilderness?
if they spent 30 & 17 years in the SP, they must be well aware of previous fuck-up's by their party and plenty of scheming. their only problem now seems to be that they are no longer in charge of the scheming. they defence of the swp also shows a lack of reality with the day to day anti-bin campaign. perhaps dermot and joan spent too long watching their former comrades in the sp and not enough in the communities.

author by Former SP member - one of many!publication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 21:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I welcome Dermot's article. It sheds light on many issues, and I am glad that he has finally gone public with what made him leave the SP. It should put paid to the nonsense that has been circulated to the effect that he resigned for only personal reasons. As if someone like Dermot, or any of the other many ex leaders who have become ex-m,embers, would do any such thing.

However, I agree with the earlier comments from 'Serge'. There is more to this than Dermot has so far acknowledged. For example, he writes: 'The other thing that marxists do not do, or at least should not do, when trying to seriously analyse events in the class struggle, is only listen to themselves. Regretfully and again breaking with the tradition of the SP/Militant, the present SP leadership in Dublin have been extremely reluctant to engage in a real and meaningful dialogue with the activists actually involved in the city campaign. They are only interested in the opinions of those who are prepared to accept without questioning, their 'leading role'.

The problem is that this has been precisely what the SP leadership has done for many years, including when Dermot himself was at its epicentre. The structures of the SP have concentrated power in the hands of an elite at the top since ever I can remember. As Finn Geaney put it, in a document he wrote when he resigned and addressed to the SP leadership, this meant that a tiny Political Committee conducted itself like a conclave of cardinals, condescending to push its programme through the membership, rather than listen, engage and learn, in a much more humble and effective manner. Dermot hasn't addressed these long standing and wider problems, thus giving the impression that the problems of the SP arise purely from the faults of one or two key people. On the contrary: they are systemic in nature, go back for many decades, and are also international in nature - ie what afflicts the SP in Ireland is an international problem.

But his contribution is at least a step forward, and I hope that it provokes more SP members (of the few that are left, especially in the North, where I think there are barely a dozen left) into a more thinking and critical reflection on their organisation.

author by Anti Bin Ballyer - Nonepublication date Tue Apr 20, 2004 23:44author address Dublin Cityauthor phone Report this post to the editors

Best of luck Joan,know this must be hard for you. I will donate a few bod to your campaign. Where should it be send to, or do you have a bank account number?

author by Badmanpublication date Wed Apr 21, 2004 00:09author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"WSM...How and when did they connect with the masses?? Them and whos pet dog in cyber space??"

Nice little sectarian side-swipe there. I can't imagine that anarchists have much time to get dragged into these bitter squabbles at the moment though. They're busy organising to walk their cyber-dog to virtual-Farmleigh on Internet day and helping to set up holographic media centres.

author by John Reimann - Labor's Militant Voice (USA)publication date Wed Apr 21, 2004 05:08author email wildcat99 at earthlink dot netauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Having been on the receiving end of the CWI leadership's attacks and eventual expulsion, I read Dermot's comments and the replies to him with great interest. It seemed pretty certain to me that some of those who replied were SP members, despite their disclaimers. And if they were not, and if the SP does not try to use this public forum (as well as others) to explain their position - what a condemnation of the SP/CWI, and what a far cry from what it used to be!

In the past, when I was first involved, the leadership would use every opportunity availabe to it to explain and argue for their (our) perspectives, program and strategy. Now, they use every trick in the books to avoid such a discussion, especially an open, public discusscussion.

I suspect that I would have to spend hours on top of hours, reading all the minutiea of who said what when and where to feel completely confident on whether Joan and Dermot played a "conservative" role or not. (Although their arguments do seem to make sense to me on the face of it.) It is exactly for this reason that the leadership of the SP/CWI always tend to channel any debates into such issues - because if you weren't there experiencing the issues first hand, it's so difficult to know exactly what happened. It was the same when we here in the US were expelled: We tried and tried and tried to get a discussion/debate going here on the issue of the so-called Labor "Party" here - what it was (and wasn't) what were the perspectives for it, how we should intervene. Every time, the leadership here and in the CWI sidetracked the debate into all sorts of organizational details.

One comment of Dermot's really jumps out at me: He explains that the SP did not campaign for a mass workers' party because there was "no basis" for it. As Dermot explains, this is absolutely ridiculous. On the surface, it means simply bowing to a temporary mood, However, I believe that there is something beneath the surface also: I remember a member of the (then named) Militant in London complaining to me that he was raising the issue of the need for a new, mass workers' party and the leadership of Militant/CWI was telling him that what he should be doing was to campaign for the building of Militant, not a mass workers' party. What an incredible idea - as if the best way to build any truly working class revolutionary organization is not to fight for what is in the interests of the working class as a whole! This very learned leadership of the CWI should take a look at the "Communist Manifesto", where it explains the relationship between the Communists and the working class as a whole.

I think that what lies behind this sectarian nonsense is the same as what lies behind the CWI leadership's freezing out of Dermot and Joan, and that is the following: As with other sectarian groups (and the CWI policy is now clearly sectarian in the true meaning of the term), when an individual starts to get involved in a real mass workers' campaign, and when they start to get a base in the working class, a base independent of the leadership of the group - then this is (correctly) seen as a threat. The reason it's a threat is that those individuals will come more under the influence of the workers' struggle and will tend to think more about what that struggle needs to go forward than what can be done to support the position of that sectarian group.

I am most definitely NOT saying that any revolutionary socialist organization must be self serving or sectarian; that depends on the policies of the group. But I think it's undeniable that the SP/CWI policies in a great number of instances are sectarian in the sense that they are not geared towards the needs of the working class (as explained above regarding a mass workers' party).

This was also shown regarding the position of the SP/CWI regarding the SSP in Scotland. Here I must say that I disagree with Dermot that the SP/CWI did not oppose in principle the setting up of the SSP. I have seen a resolution passed at a CWI congress where it calls the setting up of the SSP a massive mistake, or something of the sort, and urges the Scottish comrades to reconsider.

Some people on this thread have criticized Dermot because he's only now criticizing the incorrect, sectarian approach of the SP/CWI. I agree that it's had this approach for quite a few years. (This is why so many of the really solid working class comrades of the group have left over the years - the same members whose presence played such an important role in my getting involved.) To me this is not the point. I made mistakes when I was in the group, and accepted some things I should have looked at more critically. My closest comrades here did the same at times. But we're trying to learn the lessons of this and move forward. The point is that it seems to me that what Dermot writes is a positive contribution to helping the movement go forward. I think this is the starting point.

One last point: I think that the whole debate over the tactics of the bin tax campaign, especially the debate WITHIN the SP proves what we here in the US have been arguing: That in any revolutionary socialist group, debates over tactics, strategy, program, perspectives must not be kept secret, inside some hermetically sealed box. The only way that the issues can be correctly resolved involves seeing how workers relate to the different points of view. This means a vastly increased degree of openness.

Related Link:
author by Shine a lightpublication date Wed Apr 21, 2004 11:35author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This internicine squabble is great news, and Iím delighted Aoife Ni Fhearghaill couldnít resist butting in Ė all the better to have an SWP input into an SP falling-out cos it all amounts to the same thing: Leninists getting the hump with democratic centralism when it goes against them (College of Cardinals was spot on, Finn Geaney Ė another who saw the light too late). I look forward to the day when Aoife comes on Indymedia to give out about how she was shafted by the SWP and about the perils of democratic centralism Ė itís only a matter of time. By the way, Aoife, your talk of socialist unity is an obvious bid to introduce Gallowayís Respect to Ireland. Donít bother Ė the SWP cooked its goose a long time ago Ė no one with an ounce of sense will touch your fronts with a barge poll until you clean up your act.

author by Realistpublication date Wed Apr 21, 2004 12:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

While not agreeing with Dermot's analysis, I do think that Joan and himself have been treated very badly by the control freaks who run the SP. The way things were done to such long serving members does not inspire me with confidence about the humanity of the SP.

Anyway there is one thing I want to say. According to Dermot "...the class divide in Dublin is not between the north side and the south side, but between the east and the west of the city."

Ummmm. All those "middle class" communities in Coolock, Darndale, Kilbarrack, Kilmore, Edenmore, etc. Is it not the case that much of the city was divided up between the SWP and the SP in early days of the campaign? In the areas dominated by SP members, a lot happened. In the areas dominated by SWP members we saw quite a lot of spoofing and quite a number of phantom campaigns.

Either the SWP weren't interested in building a genuine campaign or simply didn't know how to do it. The SP did much better. However, both saw their own micro party interests as more important.

The WCA put in a lot of work too, but seemed to very reluctant to involve members of other political groups in their areas (in some cases understandably!). Again micro party interests appeared to come first.

As far as I know, it was only in the areas where the ISN and the WSM got the ball rolling that we saw significant local campaigns which had a life of their own.

Was the role of the left parties to help defeat the bin charge, or was the role of the campaign to help the left parties?

author by networkerpublication date Wed Apr 21, 2004 13:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"As far as I know, it was only in the areas where the ISN and the WSM got the ball rolling that we saw significant local campaigns which had a life of their own." -Realist please enlighten us all where did the ISN and the WSM build campaigns?
Do you mean Finglas? The ISN did not build the campaign in Finglas they had a few members involved who played a minor role and most of the time tried their best to avoid doing any work. The Finglas campaign was built by a number of groups and mostly by activists.

author by Activistpublication date Wed Apr 21, 2004 13:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I never said he wanted the story deleted. I accurately reported that he wanted to keep it off the front page. I am not engaging in editorial discussion here. I am just making people aware that the SP are openly contributing to the editorial list on this issue but are refusing to openly engage with Dermot on the thread.

I am not in breach of any guidelines. What happens on the editorial list is not secret. Newsline readers have the right to know what the SP are up to.

author by networkerpublication date Wed Apr 21, 2004 13:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"As far as I know, it was only in the areas where the ISN and the WSM got the ball rolling that we saw significant local campaigns which had a life of their own." -Realist please enlighten us all where did the ISN and the WSM build campaigns?
Do you mean Finglas? The ISN did not build the campaign in Finglas they had a few members involved who played a minor role and most of the time tried their best to avoid doing any work. The Finglas campaign was built by a number of groups and mostly by activists.

author by Demonisation??publication date Wed Apr 21, 2004 14:08author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Where is this demonisation??

On this thread Derek commented:
"For the SP, they wanted Joan to stand, as Dermot pointed out she is an excellent campaigner with a fine record and could well win a seat..... The SP members I talked to about all this had great respect for Joan and really do regret that she has taken this decision"

And John O'Hara commented
"Firstly I think I have to say that nobody doubts that Joan was and is a great activist."

author by Activistpublication date Wed Apr 21, 2004 14:19author address author phone Report this post to the editors

You really should pay more attention to the thread:

"Connolly, you really are awanker, aren’t you?"
(this was deleted)

A handful
by Xena Tuesday, Apr 20 2004, 3:31pm
A few cranks leaving is hardly disunity.

Some facts about one SP 'dissident'
by Factman Tuesday, Apr 20 2004, 3:09pm
Mick Gallagher is a careerist. He left because the SP would not back him as a local election candidate.

A final comment for the moment
by Bobser Tuesday, Apr 20 2004, 2:59pm
Has Dermot been hanging around the SWP so long that he has picked up Davy Carlin's Julius Caesar complex?

Nothing Better To Do
by Whingewatch Tuesday, Apr 20 2004, 1:56pm
All Connolly can do is moan, the whole world is against him. The SP, WCA, ISN and WSM all plotted against him. Isnt it much more likely that he was in the wrong and people had to find ways to work around an increasingly obstructive and destructive individual?

author by Major Woodypublication date Wed Apr 21, 2004 14:47author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Odd replies to a simple question. I didn't ask them to defend their presence on the editoral list I was just curious as to what other contributions they had made.

author by GI Joepublication date Wed Apr 21, 2004 16:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"As far as I know, it was only in the areas where the ISN and the WSM got the ball rolling that we saw significant local campaigns which had a life of their own"
Don't make me laugh!! While the ISN may have pulled their weight, what the fuck did the WSM do? Made fools of themselves in a sunday paper!! A couple of hippies living in a flat isn't a campaign. What have they left of their 'campaign' to show for all the 'work' they did?

author by S'c'enepublication date Wed Apr 21, 2004 16:53author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Sorry Realist but your totally wrong- strongly agree with above comment on WSM. where did they get ball rolling? What areas? I lived in cabra about 2 years ago and no sign of them around bin tax issue?? And reports from stoneybatter-grangeorman was taht they turned up with a dog andd few camera to take photos of the picket and left early. So where did they get the ball rolling- I'm dying to know.

author by James - WSMpublication date Wed Apr 21, 2004 17:08author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Ah sober reasoned argument, does the trick every time.

WSM members helped organise meetings, blockades, write leaflets, distribute them, canvass the areas months before the campaign hit the headlines. Bascially a lot of the usual slog work that goes into a campaign.

Of course we weren't the only ones doing this in areas where we live, WCA, SWP etc and lots of non-aligned all did loads of work as well. But that is the real world where facts are available to those who care to look, rather than toss out twaddle about hippies and the like.

As for Grangegorman area pickets, your reports are inaccurate, dozens turned up for a number of demos there, same for street blockades, same for public meetings. As above we were part of that, though thankfully not all of it. But why let truth get in the way of a good dig?

author by Andrewpublication date Wed Apr 21, 2004 17:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

No member of the WSM has a dog, nor for that matter do any of us have long hair. Your sounding a lot like those anti-war right wingers in your sterotypes and obviously your 'on the ground' knowledge is about as good as theirs.

The WSM didn't have any members in Cabra two years back so we'd hardly claim to have got any ball rolling there. Since then we've had three members in the area who have played a part in blockades, leafletting etc but being late arrivals could hardly have been central.

Stoneybatter was the only area we had members throughout the period of the campaign in the city area. With others in the area they helped build a reasonably strong campaign that blockaded trucks on the estates and with Cabra blockaded the Grangegorman depot on a few occasions. It was one of the few campaigns that seemed to have regular activist meetings.

We also helped got the campaign going in the Liberties right at the start but due to evil landlords our members there had to move out of the area. I think we also had individuals active in 5 other areas.

Obviously the trolls I'm replying to are just making some odd stabs in the dark but you'll get some idea of our involvement from the articles we published. These can be found at

author by Watcherpublication date Wed Apr 21, 2004 17:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

SPuppies this is about the SP and its undemocratic internal life. Not about the WSM. Your attempts to divert the discussion will not succeed. I challenge Stephen Boyd to come here and clarify his attitude to the work the WSM carried out in the Anti Bin Tax Campaign. While hes at it he might answer some of Dermots points.

author by hs - sppublication date Wed Apr 21, 2004 17:56author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I know I haven't been in the country for a while but sometimes looking from outside can help. For me, not to support Joan's candicy for differences over one campaign (tactical at that) seems extremely irrational to me. Even if the positions are mistaken, people can make mistakes!!! whatever way you look at it, its irrrational. For Dermot, I wish he had mentioned some of this while he was still general secretary and suggested bringing in changes he thought necessary.
For the party to grow it has to have room for dissent, it's as simple as that.

author by sergepublication date Wed Apr 21, 2004 18:34author address author phone Report this post to the editors

HS is quite right - dissent is vital if the SP, or any other organisation, is to grow.

ButI spot a pattern here, on this very issue, that we have seen on other threads. The SP insists that it has exemplary internal processes for discussion and dissent. Yet it appears that no body feels able to use them - Dermot, for example, despite being at the apex of the power structure, resigned rather than engage with the internal processes of the SP or the wider CWI. This pretty much appears to be the position of EVERYBODY within the organisation, who reaches critical conclusions about the party. Now, it is possible to build a sect or a cult without much internal discussion, debate or a tolerant atmosphere towards dissenters. BUT it will never be possible to build a mass movement dedicated to changing society, and with something interesting to say. Instead, you will have empty cliches parroted in the place of creative thought - again, a recipe for inertia and irrelevance, but not for the building of anything significant.

You can shrug off certain things, but when the general secretary of an organisation resigns because the internal atmosphere has become intolerable then there is something tragi-comic about what is going on. And very serious.

The silence of Boyd etc in response to this is very telling, and will also haunt this organisation for a long time to come.

author by Alan MacSimoin - WSMpublication date Wed Apr 21, 2004 18:38author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I wonder if either of you were even involved in campaign? If you were surely you would know about the work WSM members did.

Surely you would know that the first Secretary of the Dublin City campaign was Dermot Sreenan of the WSM? (Unlike other officers, he stepped down after a year or two as he didn't want some sort of position for life but he remained active on the Steering Committee).

Surely you would know the first PRO of the South Dublin campaign was Gregor Kerr of the WSM?

Surely you would have met WSM members at bin tax meetings and activities in areas as varied as Dun Laoghaire, Walkinstown, Donard, Stoneybatter and Tallaght?

Though still a small organisation, I think it's fair to say that the WSM punched above its weight.

If you think the WSM was wrong in the way it behaved in the campaign, by all means tell us why. But try dealing with facts - it may not be as easy as blindly denying them but it is a lot more useful in the long run.

Of course, it may be that you just don't like anarchism - but that's a different kettle of fish.

author by Paul Moloney - ISN - (personal capacity)publication date Wed Apr 21, 2004 18:47author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Do you mean Finglas? The ISN did not build the campaign in Finglas they had a few members involved who played a minor role and most of the time tried their best to avoid doing any work. The Finglas campaign was built by a number of groups and mostly by activists."

Another anonymous poster who hasn't got the balls to put their name to their baseless muck slinging. (I try to stay away from what I call the swamp but thanks to Colm for drawing my attention to this thread)

You are incorrect when you say that the ISN did not help to build the campaign in Finglas. (You forget that members of the ISN have been involved in fighting services charges since the 80ís long before others became involved). You are also miles off the mark when you say that we did our best to avoid work, we have and are playing a very active role in the campaign. We were along with other campaign members instrumental in organising and publicising public meetings, which drew crowds of hundreds. We never missed a meeting, never missed a leaflet session, never missed a postering session, never missed a blockade, never missed a propaganda opportunity outside the local shopping centres and never missed a picket outside the local FF TD's advice centre. What's more we had three people injuncted, two of whom went to jail. Not bad for a small local organisation.

Finglas was unlike some other campaigns, it was diverse and democratic. Members of the ISN, SP, and SF along with a non-aligned majority worked together in a constructive and non-sectarian way. The Finglas campaign has continued to organise and agitate. We have had a stall outside of all the shopping centres recently, our last meeting was on Monday and only today the local campaign protested at the opening of the local civic centre.

Despite the fact that John OíNeill is running in the local elections for the ISN, the ISN has remained fully involved and committed to the bin tax campaign. We believe that grassroots campaigning is far more important than elections.

author by Micro Grouppublication date Thu Apr 22, 2004 00:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"The WCA put in a lot of work too, but seemed to very reluctant to involve members of other political groups in their areas (in some cases understandably!). Again micro party interests appeared to come first."

"In SOME cases understandably!!!!!!!!!"
Look at the whole of this thread - fucken loonies the lot of them. Micro party (?) interests??? I don't think so - more like campaign interests - just look at the results. Solid, effective campaigns populated by 99% non lefties. Oh, and most importantly, STILL active campaigns.
As for your own group, don't lets over estimate the effects any of the political groups, it was ordinary people who were, and still are, the backbone of the campaign.

author by Mepublication date Thu Apr 22, 2004 10:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

....on the front page.

author by Optipublication date Thu Apr 22, 2004 11:53author address author phone Report this post to the editors

""Connolly, you really are awanker, aren’t you?"
(this was deleted)"

Yes it was deleted and who was the first person on the newswire to request its deletion?? A SP member.

author by Observerpublication date Thu Apr 22, 2004 12:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The SP member was the 2nd to call for its deletion. It woulkd have been embarassing for the SP if they hadnt done so at that stage.

author by Sergepublication date Thu Apr 22, 2004 12:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This thread looks like it is coming to the end of its life - or at least that part of it that is useful. Before it gets totally lost, it is worth registering the enormity of Dermot's posting for the SP. Here is a man who was its national secretary - with all due respect to Joe Higgins, in essence the brains behind the throne. Not only that, he was a key figure in the SP's international organisation. And here he is, in essence saying that even relatively minor differences over tactics are not tolerated within the organisation, that he felt he had no avenue to put his concerns other than through resigning, and that the SP has an elitest and sectarian attitude to genuinely broadly based movements in society.

What makes his critiuque all the more devstating is that it is the latest in a long series of such statements, including from former long standing leaders (Throne, Geaney, and many more). The commonality of their points, however differently they are couched, is most striking. If there are any thinking SP members left (HS may be one....) they should give this very serious food for thought. These are NOT the hallmarks of a genuine organisation capable of changing society. They are the traits of something else, and something infinitely less healthy.

The weakness in Dermot's position, I believe, is that he hasn't yet concluded that this is not the result of errors by one or two individuals (Joe Higgins, Boyd, McLoughlin - ????), but is so long standing and endemic to ALL organisations based on what they have interpreted as Leninism that there is a basic flaw with their most fundamental ideas. A fresh analysis of democracy, more openness, a recognition that no party elite has all the answers, and an appreciation of diversity - all this and more is required. But then, the resultant organisation would not be the SP, or anything like it.

Finally, Dermot has gone very public with this - as was the sensible thing to do. I am sure his views are receiving wide circulation. And where is the considered response from the SP? Dermot is dismissed as a cdrank, and worse - the absusive norm again from the beseiged Troika atop this crumbling pyramid. An organisation's leaders who prefer to have all discusion internally, rather than engage with an outside critique, is doomed I am afraid to impotence, sterility and sectarian fragmentation.

I would suggest that everbody else gets on with it, and leaves them to crumble in peace.

author by Echoing Sergepublication date Thu Apr 22, 2004 14:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

ďIt is true that prior to the October Revolution Lenin had agitated for [a] strictly disciplined party of professional revolutionaries as the condition sine qua non for the conquest and maintenance of power. Nevertheless, throughout his career, including the five years of his active life after the victory of October, Lenin never managed to organize such a ďmonolithicĒ party. Nor was it ever more than a pious wish with him which he constantly violated. Bolshevism, born of polemics and factionalism, flourished throughout the twenty years of its Leninist period on arguments and dissensions. It was only after Lenin's death, after Stalin's ruthless police measures had strangled the Bolshevik party, after the red colour of pulsing life had been drained from its veins, that it assumed the rigidity of a mummified corpse ÖĒ

And even more relevant:

"The party degenerated socially Ė became an organisation of the bureaucracy. An exaggerated centralism became essential for its self-defence. Revolutionary centralism became bureaucratic centralism; the apparatus, which in its resolution of internal conflicts cannot and does not dare to appeal to the masses, was forced to set up a court of higher appeal above itself. Thus bureaucratic centralism inevitably leads to personal dictatorship.Ē

(1) Apologies for the dodgy Wings lyrics

author by Dermo(t) Sreenan - WSMpublication date Thu Apr 22, 2004 16:54author email comrade at imapunk dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

I was a member of the Steering Committee of the Bin Tax campaign for three years, and a Secretary of the Dublin campaign for two years.

I think that Dermot Connolly's email is highly illuminating in revealing the inner machinations of the SP. I worked with both Dermot and Joan over this long and ardous campaign and I think they both have worked admirably on the issue. They put a huge amount of work in the campaign and have to be commended for that. Also, despite the various politcal strands in the campaign we worked well with each other.

I think the treatment of both Dermot and more recently Joan does much to outline the problems with Leninist parties. If they treat loyal members with such contempt (effectivey conducting a show-trial of them) what hope do the working class have, when that 'glorious day' comes and the party seize control of the state on their behalf. WE're fucked.

The WSM have always argued against standing canidates because we argue that the campaign was all about empowerment of the working class to take on the authorities, not vote for someone to sort out their problems.

I disagree with the tactic but I have NOTHING bad to say about Joan or her commitment to fighting the bin-tax.

It all reminds me of the story of Boxer the horse in Animal farm. His solution to every every twist in turn in the party policy was to work harder. Where did that lead him too ? The glue factory!

PS> One final point. There have been two organisations that have attempted in the history of Indy Media to crash this site. One of them are fascists, the other is whoever desperately tried to suppress this story, and they claim to be Soclialists.

author by Curiouspublication date Thu Apr 22, 2004 17:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"PS> One final point. There have been two organisations that have attempted in the history of Indy Media to crash this site. One of them are fascists, the other is whoever desperately tried to suppress this story, and they claim to be Soclialists."

What was the nature of the attempts? If there was an attempt to surpress the story, surely there is no better reason to put it on the front page.

author by Not suprisedpublication date Thu Apr 22, 2004 17:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It is interested to see that the majority of the postings to this thread make the assumption that what Dermot Connolly has said is correct. There has been no reply, as yet, to Connolly's accusations. We have only heard one side of the story. Why do most of you accept what he has said without question? The eagerness to grasp hold of criticisms of the SP and presume they are justified, when there is no evidence of proof is quite amazing!

author by john throne - laborsmilitantvoicepublication date Thu Apr 22, 2004 19:28author email loughfinn at aol dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

I would like to thank DC for the material he has put on this site concerning the role of the SP, the candidacy of JC and the work in the bin struggle. What a great opportunity for the SP to respond to these issues that DC raises and in doing so help the left movement and its own membership to understand these issues better and to develop our understanding further. More important what a great opportunity for the SP to respond to these issues and take the different view points out to its working class periphery and in doing so to widen its base and also to prove that it is not sectarian and not over centralised. I would like to appeal to the SP members to consider seriously why they do not take this action? What is it that prevents them from taking this action. I would like to suggest that they consider that they do not do so because they would not be able to defend their position as being in the interests of the working class movement rather than in the sectarian interests of the SP.

The SP deserves credit for its central role in the struggle against the water charges and the struggle against the bin charges. The fact that they played this role flows from their orientation to the working class movement and their understanding that any revolutionary organization has to be involved in the day to day struggles of the working class if it is to develop. These are two of the most important strengths of the SP. However that is not the end of the story. The manner in which any revolutionary organization involves itself in these struggles is also crucial. It has to be involved keeping in mind at all times what is in the interest of the working class and how best to use the potential resources that exist for taking this interest forward. And any revolutionary organization has to be continually checking that it does not put its own sectarian interests above those of the working class movement.

The water charges campaign and the bin charges campaign were/are united fronts. These brought together hundreds of left activists and thousands probably tens of thousands of working class people in struggle over these issues. These were important steps forward for the working class movement and also for the left and anti capitalist movement. It increased the base for revolutionary ideas in the working class. I believe however that a key issue and a key test for all left organizations is what they saw as being in the interests of the working class as they helped build these movements, how they saw the best way to build on these united fronts which were/are around very specific and limited issues and strengthen the working class movement as a whole on a more permanent basis.

The problem I have with the SP approach is that it has tended to see its own narrow interests, and even here it makes a serious mistake, coming before the interests of building on these united fronts to strengthen the working class. I remember when Joe H and Clare D were released from prison and when the rally was held in the Gresham Hotel. At that time I raised that that welcome out rally should not have been organized under the name of the SP but should have been organized by the anti bin charge movement with speakers from the different campaigns around the city also on the platform. If it had it would have strengthened and unified the bin tax struggle and movement to a much greater degree. Instead by calling it under the SP name the SP strenthened its reputation as being sectarian and damaged itself, but more seriously the activists in the bin charge struggle were shown that the SP when it came down to it were not looking to strengthen and unify the bin struggle as their priority but were thinking about building the SP as their priority. This weakened the bin tax struggle, weakened the working class movement and made it much more difficult to mobilise the potential in the form of the many many activists to build a wider movement.

In relation to the June elections I would like SP members to come on here and explain why they think it was not in the interest of the working class to have one united list of anti bin charge candidates who would have as the main unifying issue victory for the bin charge struggle. In my opinion one single unified list on this issue would have increased the consciousness of the working class on the struggle against the bin and service charges, would have increased the vote and therefore strengthened the support for the struggle, would have more likely increased the numbers elected on this issue and would have helped to develop an independent working class force of activists which while fighting together on the bin charges could have laid the basis for some more long term united struggle and force. Comrades in the SP you cannot deny that a single list of bin charge candidates was not in the best interests of the working class and retain any credibility. I would like to suggest that this is why we have the same old pattern of abuse and diversionary slanders instead of an open and honest debate. But please prove me wrong and come on here and make your case why it was in the interest of the working class not to have a unified anti bin charge list.

But here I would also say to all others on this list and in the movement that if we accept that one united list would have been in the best interests of the working class then what have we done to secure this. Many activists such as DC and JC and others and some of the revolutionary groups have maintained this position and fought for a single list. These Comrades should be commended for their stand. However I would like to suggest that we also have to look at our roles and why we were not able to secure a unified list . I believe one of the resons for this is that there is not a clear enough understanding of the damage that sectarianism does to the movement and there is not an open struggle against this scourge. It is sectarianism that is at the root of this problem. Sectarianism is putting the narrow interests of building an organization above the interests of the working class, it is putting the narrow interest of an individual activist above the interests of the working class.

There is a major capitalist offensive that is driving back the working class internationally. AS DC commented this has the wind in its sails due to the catastrophe and then the collapse of stalinism and due to the open collaboration of the mass organizations which claimed to represent the working class with this offensive. This in turn has created a consciousness in the working class that they cannot defeat this offensive and that there is no alternative to capitalism. What is needed to turn this around are some major victories for the working class that would have an impact on the international working class consciousness. Victories that would open up a new balance of forces between the classes in which the working class would move from the defensive onto the offensive and in this situation then the issue of what is the alternative to capitalism would once again come back onto the agenda.

As I have argued with the SP and others there are thousands of activists in the various anti capitalist organizations and as individuals in the movement, and many who would be active if they could see a way to do so that would be effective. The approach of the revolutionary groups to the bin charge struggle should be to win this struggle and from this how to build out of these united fronts of activists on the bin charges struggle a united front movement to take on and throw back the capitalist offensive and open up a new situation of offensive working class struggle. This united front could be in the form of a new mass workers party or have more of a transitional character at this time such as bringing together activists and workers in locally based united fronts of struggle for specific demands and with specific tactics and unifying these nationally and eventually internationally.

To take steps towards this means in my opinion an open struggle against sectarianism. It means defining what sectarianism is, it means pointing it out in our own and others actions and it means organizing against it. In particular it means taking the issue to the working class. It would have meant in this specific case of the June elections and the bin charge struggle going to the working class activists and areas where the campaign has a base and mobilising support for the idea of a single unified list. It would have meant that those forces who were for this would ask openly in their material for the SP and others who opposed this position to justify their position in front of the the working class periphery of the campaign. It would have mean explaining what sectarianism is and why it has to be fought. And it would have meant doing this in a non sectarian manner. That is not abusing the SP or any other group but appealing to the membership of the SP to consider this issue and to raise it for discussion in their organization and to change the policy.

I believe that while the left movement is usually very alert and willing to identify opportunism and to condemn it, even on occasions where it does not exist, that it is much less alert to and willing to take up openly the dangers of sectarianism. I believe that this is because it would mean openly and critically looking at its own behaviour. I would point again to the lack of discussion in the anti capitalist movement after the sectarian debacle of running three different left candidates in the last presidential elections in France. Why is this. I believe it is because so many left groups saw that to do so would expose their own sectarianism and so sectarianism is not confronted head on and it continues to weaken the working class movement.

I will not go on here about the other issue that Comrade DC raises. The nature of the revolutionary organization. Readers of this indymedia will have heard me on it before. I would just like to ask SP members and the members of all left groups to go back and look at the history of the movement on which they claim to base themselves. Look at the Bolsheviks before the civil war and stalinism. An organization of continual debate and factions. Look at the three different Bolshevik papers that were being produced by different sections of the Bolsheviks in Petrograd in 1917. The model of the SP and many left groups is one that has been influenced by stalinism and by the isolation of the revolutionary socialist ideas from the mass of the working class over the past half century and more.

I would like to ask the SP members to come on here and answer this specific question. How do you think you can become a mass revolutionary party with the present internal life. How can you become a mass revolutionary party when you basically drive out a leading Comrade, JC because she abstains on a vote on a tactical issue and thinks independently and critically. It is totally excluded that the SP can become a mass organization with its present internal life. A mass organization in Ireland will be one of tens of thousands of activists who will have the most vibrant and alive ideas and an absolute determination to express these. There will be many issues where different opinions will exist. A mass revolutionary organization can only develop if it understands that it will be an organization of debate and internal struggle and factions. The SP cannot become a mass organization with its present internal life and culture. It cannot even tolerate the most marginal difference on tactics which it appears that JC and DC had with the party.

Many members of the SP see myself and will now see the contribution of DC as harmful to the SP. I would suggest that you consider it from another viewpoint. That those who go along with the internal culture of the SP as it is at present are condemning that organization to remaining a sectarian organization and one that cannot become a mass organization. But much more important than that you are allowing the SP to continue to act in a sectarian manner in the working class movement and this means that in spite of all the positive aspects of the SP's work it is in the last analysis damaging the working class and preventing it realising its full potential.

I would like to finish by drawing attention to one point which DC raises which illustrates where the SP now finds itself due to its sectarian policies and its bureaucratic centralist internal life. Look at the disgraceful lack of solidarity with DC when he was in prison. This was a betrayal. This Comrade was stabbed in the back. Think of it on a larger scale. Consider for example if the SP had tens of thousands of members and a faction inside it which disagreed with the leadership on some issue and members of this faction were jailed. Comrades the actions of the party in relation to DC when he was in prison show that the party would abandon these members. Members of the SP have to face up to their responsibility for the internal life of the SP and the policies of the SP. And if you do not speak out then you are also responsible for this, in this case you are responsible for a member of the party being abandoned when he was in prison because he had some different views on tactics on the bin charge struggle.

Members of the SP it is your responsibility to speak out and take up a struggle inside the SP on these issues. I would like to support HS-SP for speaking out on this thread about the need for an internal life that allows for debate and different opinions. For all of the rest of us on the left it is our responsibility to take up an open struggle against sectarianism and also to take on the task of critically assessing the mistaken methods that have evolved in the left over the past decades, while at the same time preserving the fundamental principles of revolutionary socialism and the class struggle and building on these.

Related Link:
author by SP Memberpublication date Thu Apr 22, 2004 22:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I would like Dermot Connolly to reply to one question that he said he was going to answer in his contribution:

What were the five conditions that Joan Collins was asked to accept as an SP candidate and what were her and your objections to them?

The reason I ask is that you only mention two of them and the only reason I can find in the contribution for rejecting them is that Joan was a long standing member of the SP and that her loyality should not be questioned.

author by Lennie the non leninistpublication date Fri Apr 23, 2004 01:59author address author phone Report this post to the editors

While I find Connollyís tale of the inner workings of the SP very interesting, itís not exactly surprising given the fact that they are democratic centralists. Their control freak mentality ensures that they will never get beyond cult status. I donít know the real reason why he fell out with the SP but Iím certain that it wasnít the anti bin tax campaign which caused such a long standing member to resign. He was clearly, and publicly, in conflict with the SP long before he resigned. Iíd be very interested to hear from Connolly himself why he remained in the SP for so long while people like Throne, Geaney etc.. were forced out?
Because Iím not surprised by anything the trots get up to, the most disappointing aspect of this whole affair is that Connolly is willing to do the anti bin tax campaign irreparable damage to get revenge on the SP. Obviously his hatred of the SP is his political priority at the moment. If his attack was purely on the SP that would be fair enough but when it is portrayed as an analysis of the anti bin tax campaign then he has some serious questions to answer.
Dermot, as you are most likely reading this could you answer the following questions in relation to the anti bin tax campaign?
(1) Were you privy to the dividing up of the city between the SP and the SWP at the start of the anti bin tax campaign?
(2) Why is there no criticism of the role of the SWP? Why no comments on their phantom campaigns? Or them flooding Ďactivistí meetings? Or their members claiming to represent areas they didnít?
(3) Why no criticism of the almost non existent presence of Sinn Fein in the campaign?
(4) Why no criticism of the very poor legal advice the campaign received?
(5) How come you can produce 12 pages attacking the SP and damaging the campaign in the process yet couldnít get a four page newsletter produced in 2 months?
(6) Is your obvious ego an overriding factor in all this?

author by Joepublication date Fri Apr 23, 2004 04:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Dermot really has blinkers on if he can't see that the SWP played an incredibly conservative role during the height of the bin charges campaign. For God's sake, they opposed the use of blockades and civil disobedience when they were most needed. This was in complete opposition to the general feeling in working class areas and among most activists on the ground.

However, their behaviour simply reflected their general moderation. In the anti-war movement they similarly opposed the use of civil disobedience and even went as far as to try and scuttle a blockade planned for Shannon airport on December 6th. They then moved to rig a meeting of the IAWM at which they voted down future demos at Shannon. The IAWM has now fallen apart because of their behaviour.

Some 'revolutionary' party!

author by Factspublication date Fri Apr 23, 2004 10:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

In a frenzy to be anti-SP you have all mis-read Dermot Connollyís article. It does not attack the CWI. It does not attack the SP. It praises the CWI and the SP in Britain. If you read it again you will see it is an attack on three of the leaders of the SP, Kevin McLoughlin, Stephen Boyd and Michael Murphy. It is also an attack on the majority of the activists in the anti-bin tax campaign from all parties, groups and individuals except the SWP.

author by A different voicepublication date Fri Apr 23, 2004 12:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

If you knew Dermot, you would know that he is even more critical of the SWP. I bet the reason he doesn't take time out to say much about them is because he knows how useless they are. Dermot didn't support all SWP members being put on a list for the elections at the city meeting. Dermot didn't take up the conservative line of the SWP with regard to the blockades. He had a tactical difference of when to apply the tactic. Didn't agree with him then and I still disagree with that line now. (BTW Dermot didn't sign a waiver either - he did his time). But for fuck sake it was a tactical difference not one of ideology

Let's face it, the SP have being trying to put out an image of Dermot being under the spell of the SWP and that he is their latest stooge. Sorry but the world is just not that simple.

That said I bet you are another person who says that all people are interested in is SP bashing but has nothing to say on the attempt to surpress this story and still thinks the SP has a healthy regard for democracy.
Dream on!

author by Mary Muldowneypublication date Fri Apr 23, 2004 13:53author email muldownm at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone 087 798 8330Report this post to the editors

Dermot Connolly's article is very welcome for the light it sheds on the mechanisms of the SP and the virtually complete restriction of internal debate that has become the defining characteristic of the organisation in recent years. It is understandable, given the appalling way in which former comrades treated him, that he should seek to blame the SP for everything that went wrong with the Anti-Bin Tax Campaign but to suggest that the SWP was blameless is a distortion of what actually happened. Mistakes were made, certainly, but we must learn from them because it is inevitable that we will be facing more attacks on the rights of ordinary people. It is a terrible waste of the commitment and energy of so many dedicated activists to direct these resources into petty sectarian squabbling. We need genuinely broad left campaigns where members are united by a common goal and disagreements about tactics and strategy can be discussed in an open and democratic manner. This does not preclude the involvement of particular groups but it does mean that the focus must be on winning the battles (and ultimately the war) not on who is going to be the general.

At the height of activity in the A.B.T.C. last year, I resigned from the SP, even though Joe Higgins and Clare Daly, individuals for whom I have enormous admiration, were in jail at the time. Although I knew my move would be criticised within the SP, not least for the timing, I felt it was the most honest way to deal with concerns that I had about leadership decisions, culminating in those concerning the SP's participation in the Anti-War Campaign and the A.B.T.C. It seemed to me that building the party was becoming the primary motivation for every activity and while it might be naÔve, I had originally joined the SP because it promised the best means of building a fight back against the agenda of the ruling class. Like many others, I am a socialist because I want to make the world a better place. The party, whether it is the SP, SWP or any similar organisation, should simply be a means to that end. The opportunist way in which both the SP and the SWP leadership used the jailing of activists to claim that joining either organisation was the solution was both cynical and off-putting for the many people who quickly saw through the propaganda.

The concerns I raised at several SP conferences over the years about the extent to which the imperative for recruitment was overcoming honest explanation of the party’s methods continue to be relevant. I accept my own share of responsibility for the lack of democracy in the party because I failed to push consistently for greater accountability and consultation, but it should not be necessary in a healthy organisation to have to devote much needed time to such pursuits. In my letter of resignation to Kevin McLoughlin (to which I have never had either an acknowledgement or a reply) I raised the issue of information dissemination, which is essential for the effective functioning of any democratic body.

“As a member of the Regional and the National Committees of the party, I had access to background information and debate about most of the work in which we were involved and if I did not completely agree with decisions that were reached, I felt that the decision-making process had at least been democratic. However, I was also aware that party members who were not on these committees were not equally informed and that the pressures of work at branch meetings and shortage of space in the Voice meant that debate was frequently curtailed. I understand that the leadership pyramid thus created is part of the democratic centralist method but my interpretation of this method entails consultation in both directions, from top to bottom and vice versa and pressure of work should not be allowed to obstruct this process.”

My experience since I resigned from the SP has been that the party leadership dealt with my criticisms by dismissing me as a rather foolish crank. Fair enough – if it had been said to my face and if any of the issues I raised were ever discussed with me. The situation with Dermot is very different. He was a founding member of the organisation and a lifelong dedicated socialist who has a breadth of vision about the possibilities for a mass left party that is clearly beyond the capacity of the current inward focus of the SP leadership to understand. Joan’s commitment and incredible level of hard work over the years of her membership of the SP is second to none. Even her political opponents concede her integrity and decency and it would be impossible outside the ranks of the current SP leadership to find anyone with a bad word to say about her. It seems beyond explanation that McLoughlin et al should have manoeuvred to force these individuals from the organisation to which they had contributed so much.

The point of this contribution is to ask SP members to think about the implications of Dermot and Joan’s virtual expulsion from the organisation. Not just for the future of the party but much more importantly, for its future role in campaigns to withstand the ongoing attacks of the government and employers on ordinary people in this country. Leave aside the sectarian interests and focus instead on the real enemy, which is certainly not either Dermot Connolly or Joan Collins or anybody else who disagrees with the direction in which the SP has been moving.

author by Jimbo - SPpublication date Fri Apr 23, 2004 14:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Neither Dermot Connolly nor Joan Collins were expelled from the Socialist Party.
Dermot was a leading member of the SP who developed differences of perspectives with the majority of the SP leadership. Full freedom of discussion was permitted, he failed to take advantage of that. Can anyone point to one document which Dermot wrote while still a member of the party criticising the majority position or putting forward his own ideas? No, because he never came out publicly with them. Dermot then decided to leave the party because his perspectives and his views on building the party etc. no longer coincided with ours.

JC was also not expelled from the party. She failed to agree to very basic norms concening her election campaign, like that the position would be a party rather than a personal position. She was therefore not put forward by the party as an SP election candidate. She then decided to run as an anti-bin tax candidate, not for the SP, in reality submitting her own resignation by doing so.

So let's not start claiming that people were expelled left right and centre from the party - people choose to leave political parties, as is their right.

I would like some information on the claim that someone is trying to take down this site, the implication being a member of the SP wants to prevent debate on this issue. What did these attempts to make it unreadable consist of?

author by Joepublication date Fri Apr 23, 2004 14:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I was online when the attempt to take down the site was mounted. It consisted of someone pasting a huge list of blahs into the commment board and repeatadly submitting them. A pretty crude attempt but apparently this was done over 100 times in the space of a couple of minutes. The intention was clear.

A bit of a stink has arisen out of one of the editors then threatening llegal action not a reponse I personally agree with but I can understand the anger. However the SP are not in much of a position to complain about 'capitalist courts' as one of their leading 'youth' members threatened indymedia with legal action at the start of the summer if they did not remove some piss taking comments about the Socialist Party.

author by Mary Muldowneypublication date Fri Apr 23, 2004 14:17author email muldownm at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone 087 798 8330Report this post to the editors

I did not claim that Dermot and Joan were expelled. There is a concept in industrial relations of 'constructive dismissal' whereby life has been made so difficult for an employee that he/she is forced into resignation. It is a concept that is legally recognised and used frequently by rotten bosses. Perhaps Jimbo would think about that?

author by fpublication date Fri Apr 23, 2004 15:42author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Below is a link to the Socialist Party's analysis of the Bin Tax struggle. The article is in the current edition of 'Socialist View'.

Related Link:
author by ecpublication date Fri Apr 23, 2004 16:46author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The attack on the thread lasted well over an hour on the day of it being posted. Someone pasting huge comments repeatedly makingt page so big that it became unloadable without a fast internet connection. I and one other made various threats in response to this so as to make the spammer think about what they were doing. This worked. We have no idea who the spammer was and have not taken any steps to find out. This has not happened before on the site except on a number of threads attacked by Nazis from Stormfront.

author by ecpublication date Fri Apr 23, 2004 16:53author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Though it did end up disrupting mailing lists on which people organise thre site

author by Mark - SPpublication date Fri Apr 23, 2004 17:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

As 'Jimbo' has pointed out, Dermot never raised these 'differences' when he was a member of the party. In addition to this, Joan was asked to put her position before conference but did not show. There was a frank and open discussion on this issue at conference. Emmet was given extra time to speak on the issue too defend Joan and Dermot. As you know any party member can go to conference. It is the highest decision making body of the party.
Now I have nothing but respect for the work both Dermot and Joan have done over many years but in the last analysis, they have gone their own way because they disagreed with decisions that we're made democraticly within the party. In essence for Dermot and Joan to get what they wanted would have meant over-riding this democracy and a real bureaucratic degeneration.

author by Echoing Sergepublication date Fri Apr 23, 2004 18:26author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Revolutionary centralism became bureaucratic centralism; the apparatus, which in its resolution of internal conflicts cannot and does not dare to appeal to the masses, was forced to set up a court of higher appeal above itself. "

Got many members in Portlaoise then?

author by Jimbo - SPpublication date Fri Apr 23, 2004 18:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I appreciate that Mary, but I don't accept that life was made so hard for them that either of them had to leave. What made life within the party so hard that they had to leave in your opinion?
Is it because Joan was not selected as a candidate without agreeing to certain norms of democratic centralism? I hope you don't think so, and I'm sure Joan doesn't, because that would smack of the kind of careerism and personal ambition seen so often in the bourgeois parties.
Why else?

Let us be absolutely clear - no one has been expelled in recent years from the Socialist Party. A number of people chose to leave and that should be discussed on its own merits, but to imply that they were expelled simply serves to give sustenance to our class enemies who like to portray socialist parties as monolothic undemocratic blocs incapable of dealing with internal debate or criticism. You know Mary that this is not correct, as you state in your post, you frequently raised differences with the view of the majority of the Party leadership, and you weren't expelled, constructively or ortherwise, for doing so. The same applies to Dermot and Joan who had plenty of opportunity to raise differences, and had they done so might have served to really educate the party in the nature of a revolutionary party, the different strategies and tactics to be adopted at different stages of the class struggle etc. They didn't, instead they chose to leave.

author by E by Gumpublication date Fri Apr 23, 2004 18:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

You probalby thought that by putting up the Socialist View article that you were doing the SP a service and showing their serious critique of the bin tax struggle.
Guess what in the article there is only one other left group mentioned.
Guess who? - the SWP and it's negative.
Says a lot.

author by I'm a fire starter!publication date Fri Apr 23, 2004 22:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thanks Dermot Connolly for your wonderful epitaph. Indymedia has been boring for months, now its back to the good old craic again. So lots of interesting postings so far and a few bizarre ones. John Throne praising Dermot Connolly! John Throne making eyes at Dermot Connolly for a possible collaboration! That would be a turn up for the books. Dermot Connolly who actually voted at a meeting to expel John Throne from the CWI who almost has a fit at the mention of Throneís name! (Well he used to anyway things might have changed, cosy dinner parties now apparently).
Mary Muldowney praising Dermot Connolly! Could that be the same Mary Muldowney who thinks (thought) Dermot Connolly was undemocratic and dictatorial!
Dermot Connolly praising Brid Smith, and hell hasnít frozen over. Could that be the same Dermot Connolly who hates(d) the SWP. Could this be the same Dermot Connolly whose attitudes to other left political parties and groups was so vitriolic that it made Boyd appear like a UN diplomat!
Dermot Connolly, Joan Collins and Mary (Marxist? Anarchist? Intellectual???) Muldowney do have at least something in common. They all left the SP embittered, but incredibly silent. Yes, silent cause none of them made any real serious attempt to raise criticism of the SP and its politics or methods while they were still members. None of them attempted to try and argue their differences. No they just walked away. Now they have become vocal. Iíd call that cowardice, not having the conviction of your ideas to argue them. John Throne to his credit did argue his ideas when he was a member of the CWI. The tens of thousands of Trotskyists in the Left Opposition didnít silently walk away from the Stalinist dominated CP in the USSR they fought and sacrificed their lives to try and save their party and the revolution. Not like these three born again latter day darlings of the sects.
Dermot Connolly has written approximately 11,000 words attacking the SP. Now all of you who read and participate in the site might be surprised by what I am going to say. This is the first; I repeat the first time that Dermot Connolly has ever expressed in writing his disagreements with the SP. I find that incredible, that someone like Dermot Connolly who tries to claim above that the problems with the SP are so serious that its leadership if they continue on their present path will actually destroy that party, waited until nearly 6 months after he leaves the SP to actually raise these criticisms! Thatís the same Dermot Connolly who some of you (in an attempt to give him credibility) have correctly stated was a leading member of the SP for nearly (not quite) 30 years, who was a member of the international executive committee of the CWI, and he not once engaged in a debate on his criticisms! No instead he became inactive, and once the anti-bin tax campaign started consistently attacked the SP (while he was still a member), maintained himself dishonestly as the chairperson of the Dublin anti-bin tax campaign committee. I say dishonestly because Dermot Connolly was only chairperson cause the SP put him their as it representative, if he had acted honourably he should have resigned as chairperson once he decided to openly and publicly oppose the party in which he was still a member. But then honour is not commonly found amongst renegades. Dermot do you remember Kautsky?
So Dermot Connolly, Joan Collins, Mary Muldowney, in the immortal words of Ted Grant "paddle your own canoe", and enjoy your habitation of the wonderful world of the sects!
Now thatís put the cat amongst the pigeons, let the fun begin boys and girls I am going to enjoy your replies!

author by Des Derwinpublication date Sat Apr 24, 2004 01:43author email dderwin at gofree dot indigo dot ieauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Kautsky had the moral courage to put his name to his writings. It is Krylenko not Kautsky that springs to mind from the above comment.

In his posting Dermot launched a few scuds along with his criticisms. But nothing like this kind of vitriolic, apoplectic abuse.

Fire Starter could be a troll but s/he implies that s/he is a member of the Socialist Party or that s/he has the inside track there. There are many members loyal to the SP leadership whom I know would never descend to this kind of tirade. They will recognise that Dermot Connolly has self-sacrificially served their organisation for 30 years (how could he have suddenly become a demon?). That, while no one is perfect, Dermot Connolly, Joan Collins and Mary Muldowney are among the cream of the socialist movement in Ireland. Some of that cream is to be found IN the Socialist Party and in leading positions there. I cannot imagine this shit coming from their lips.

I only know Dermot since the early 90s. I found him to be - quite apart from his hard work and organising ability - someone capable of CONNECTING with workers and with the wider movement. A good ambassador, in fact, for his organisation, then taking an 'outward turn'.

P.S. The elements of a New Left here are slowly but surely emerging.

author by Grasshopperpublication date Sat Apr 24, 2004 10:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I heard DC South is to meet with DC North

author by Sergepublication date Sat Apr 24, 2004 12:35author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I would say fire starter's comments read pretty authentic. The tone of intemperate abuse and demonisation is typical of the SP, while the text reads like it is written by someone with considerable inside knowledge (perhaps even Boyd himself!). Unfortunately, from the SP's point of view, the more they do this the more they inadvertently reinforce the suspicions and criticisms raised of them. For example, if this tone is typical of so-called internal discussions, what does it tell us about democracy in the SP? Democracy is about more than formal rights and about voting. It is also about tone. It is about respect for dissent and differences. Yet those who dissent are pilloried mercilessly. A partial, grudging exception is made by this writer for John Throne, who we are told at least argued his case. Sometimes, you can barely believe your eyes. What after all was this man's fate - someone who devoted decades, a great deal of money and even his health to the CWI? He was fired, expelled, left with unpaid medical bills and generally lashed as a crank!!! (There seems to be an uncommonly high number of cranks among the SP's ex-leadership).

In addition, the writer seems to find it unremarkable that so many ex-leaders decided not to use the SP's machinery for internal discussion, and just leave to get on with their lives. They are all cowards, traitors, cranks and even 'wankers' - despite their sterling service to the party. Another interpretation would suggest itself to observers with a calmer frame of mind. That would be that the internal democracy of the SP is a sham, that to try to use it invites ridicule, demonisation, abuse and worse. That there is something wrong with a democratic process no one with serious differences feels able to use.

I also love the dismissal here of every other left group as 'the sects'. The old phrase about the pot calling the kettle black springs to mind. Here we have a tiny organisation, dwindling rapidly (espeially in the North), losing key people left, right and centre - widely regarded as a sect, a nuisance and possibly even a cult. And yet everyone else is a sect? Hmmm. Some sense of proprtion is sadly lacking.

Finally, much play is made of Dermot now being praised by people like Throne for his dissent - very funny, this is supposed to be. But people arrive at these conclusions at different times for their own reasons, and at different speeds. I recall that some Stalinists saw the light of day after the Moscow trials; for others, it was the war time flip flops that compelled a reappraisal; for yet others, it took until the suppression of workers movements in the 50s for light to dawn. I say: better late than never.

And for the SP, the devastating fact remains: one of their key people, in many ways, their single most important thinker in the south, has turned his back on the party after 30 years, and exposed its internal workings once again as being seriously deficient. The more SP members lash out with abuse, while avoiding the argument, the more I would say they are reinforcing Dermot's case for him - and that of other former dissidents and members as well. Trotskyists always feel great superiority to stalinists - how could they really swallow the Moscow trials and the other perversions of socialism without realising something was wrong? Yet in terms of the internal regimes within the Trotksyist movement we also find evidence of stalinism. And we also must ask: what does it take, how many miserable organisational disasters, how many expulsions, splits, demonisations, repression of dissent, how many failures to build, before they also see that something is fundamentally wrong with the model that they are implementing? It is way past time to learn from experience.

I wish Dermot well with whatever he is now doing, and in his life in general.

author by Leo Garveypublication date Sat Apr 24, 2004 17:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I was just browsing your site and read this article. Thought i might (as an outsider) make a few points.

- Less of the bitching/infighting - the public don't care and the media will pour scorn on your antics and the issues will be clouded.

- Waste mangement is a huge problem in this country and by charging those who cause waste (ie. everyone) people will realise that they must protect the environment.

- The middle classes are aware of this and pay the charges not because they are spineless dupes of the government but because they are generally better educated and informed than their working class neighbours.

- Just because someone runs a successful business doesn't mean he/she is some type of capitalist swine. They're just doing their job and are probably employing a few people in the process!

Hope these points were helpful.

author by Lenniepublication date Sun Apr 25, 2004 02:11author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Dermot, as you started off this very interesting thread could you please answer the questions I've already asked you? They are very relevent to the anti bin tax campaign?

While I find Connollyís tale of the inner workings of the SP very interesting, itís not exactly surprising given the fact that they are democratic centralists. Their control freak mentality ensures that they will never get beyond cult status. I donít know the real reason why he fell out with the SP but Iím certain that it wasnít the anti bin tax campaign which caused such a long standing member to resign. He was clearly, and publicly, in conflict with the SP long before he resigned. Iíd be very interested to hear from Connolly himself why he remained in the SP for so long while people like Throne, Geaney etc.. were forced out?
Because Iím not surprised by anything the trots get up to, the most disappointing aspect of this whole affair is that Connolly is willing to do the anti bin tax campaign irreparable damage to get revenge on the SP. Obviously his hatred of the SP is his political priority at the moment. If his attack was purely on the SP that would be fair enough but when it is portrayed as an analysis of the anti bin tax campaign then he has some serious questions to answer.
Dermot, as you are most likely reading this could you answer the following questions in relation to the anti bin tax campaign?
(1) Were you privy to the dividing up of the city between the SP and the SWP at the start of the anti bin tax campaign?
(2) Why is there no criticism of the role of the SWP? Why no comments on their phantom campaigns? Or them flooding Ďactivistí meetings? Or their members claiming to represent areas they didnít?
(3) Why no criticism of the almost non existent presence of Sinn Fein in the campaign?
(4) Why no criticism of the very poor legal advice the campaign received?
(5) How come you can produce 12 pages attacking the SP and damaging the campaign in the process yet couldnít get a four page newsletter produced in 2 months?
(6) Is your obvious ego an overriding factor in all this?

author by memory manpublication date Sun Apr 25, 2004 02:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Wasn't there a post a few weeks ago from Socailist Democracy alleging political problems with the campaign? Weren't they slaggged off as sectarian tossers?

Congrats to the minority on this thread able to deal with the politics

author by who me?publication date Sun Apr 25, 2004 20:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

the phrase bucket of sectarian vomit comes to mind about this thread!

author by Red Adairpublication date Mon Apr 26, 2004 16:33author address author phone Report this post to the editors

firestarter said (more like damp squib):

"The tens of thousands of Trotskyists in the Left Opposition didnít silently walk away from the Stalinist dominated CP in the USSR they fought and sacrificed their lives to try and save their party and the revolution. Not like these three born again latter day darlings of the sects. "

Lets see now.
Without even focussing on the complicity of these people with the suppression of the Workers Opposition or their down right lies when it came to Kronstadt, would these be the same Trotskyists who in 1923 were rejecting any analogy with Thermidorian reaction. Who then in 1926 were predicting the possibility of a Thermidorian course; at the same time as they were violently attacked the Leftists of Democratic Centralism, who were declaring that Thermidor was already a fact. Then in November 1927, following a demonstration in the streets in which supporters of the LO were attacked by Stalinist gangs, then declared that they had just witnessed a general repetition of Thermidor. In 1927, with the 121, they declared that they had never thought that the party or its Central Committee were Thermidorian. In 1928-9, they announced yet again that there was a Thermidorian threat. Well at least they were always clear as to what they thought?
Makes you wonder whether you like Trotsky think that the reign of bureaucracy was purely transitory and would inevitably collapse.

Any sign of the reign of bureaucracy coming to an end in Thomas Street?

author by Insiderpublication date Mon Apr 26, 2004 17:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I hope all local election anti bin tax candidates remember to tell householders that if successful, they will not have the power to abolish waste charges or to set the amount of the charge. If successful it will be interesting to see how they go about delivering services, safeguarding jobs and maximising revenues. Mind you, they'll have to issue receipts, keep proper accounts and spend money on what it is collected for. That should be interesting.

author by Outsiderpublication date Mon Apr 26, 2004 20:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Insider most candidates that are standing in the elections are standing on more than just an anti bin tax candidate. I know that the candidates from the SP, SWP, ISN and WCA are standing on left wing socialist tickets that do I am sure highlight the fact that local authorities have been so starved of power that many of these important issues are carried out by an unelected bureaucrat and not elected officials. Most anti bin tax candidates don't see these elections as the place where the bin tax will be defeated. They will be using these elections as an oppurtunity for ordinary people to show their anger and as an oppurtunity to build up the campaign. It's a shame some of the 'independents' have abandoned any idea of building up socialism and are not standing on socialist tickets.

author by Brian of Nazareth!publication date Mon Apr 26, 2004 23:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Judaean People's front (AKA the SP) are on their way to kidnapp Caesar's wife in protest at the hated bin tax...

On their way they encounter the People's front of Judaea (aka the SWP)...

"Brothers, surely we should fight together against the common enemy"!!!


"NO, the ROMANS!!!!"

Christ, it's so laughable how the far left fits into this mould perfectly. Let's not fight the tax, let's fight each other! Perfectly sensible!


author by JPLOpublication date Tue Apr 27, 2004 10:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

They started it.

author by R. Isiblepublication date Tue Apr 27, 2004 18:34author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I wonder why no one has ever posted the Life of Brian comment before.

What your "let's all unite and fight the bin tax" exhortation lacks is any description of what all the various parties and individuals should unite under: what type of organisational structure, what tactics, what goals.

What this episode illustrates to me is that ideological predispositions can result in genuinely different and incompatible approaches.

Shouting UNITE, UNITE is about as useful as personalised attacks on someone with a different opinion. On the other hand if you want to unite so desperately then I suggest that you give up your political standpoint and go do the bidding of people that you believe are completely wrong in their direction, tactics and behaviour.

author by Guesserpublication date Tue Apr 27, 2004 19:19author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I wonder who could possibly have written something like that?

My money is on somebody under the influence of Henrietta Street. (Unite, unite - once it's behind our Keiran)
With an outside chance of it being someone under the influence of the FI (Lets unite with Lula or Bacik), although that is unlikely as I doubt that they were aware of the struggle going on in working class neighbourhoods.

author by Brian of Nazareth!publication date Tue Apr 27, 2004 22:33author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"On the other hand if you want to unite so desperately then I suggest that you give up your political standpoint and go do the bidding of people that you believe are completely wrong in their direction, tactics and behaviour."

That's the point - the far left are willing to pick arguments with each other over differences most outside observers wouldn't notice.

Although I thought it was obvious already, I'm not on the Irish far left. I did have friends in the far left in my time in Maynooth, but quickly got pissed off with the infighting and shite.

I read this great comment recently which summed it all up - if you have one Trotskyite in a room, you have a political party. Two, you've a movement and with three - you have two political parties! Says it all. The far left is not by any means an alternative. Whinging about my "life of Brian" comment won't make it any less true.

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