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Program and Tactics of ULA.

category international | elections / politics | opinion/analysis author Wednesday February 09, 2011 19:40author by john throne - Facts For Working peopleauthor email loughfinn at aol dot com Report this post to the editors

ULA, a great opportunity. Program and tactics. It is a pity some groups and many individuals continue with their left sectarianism and refuse to be part.

Large numbers in polls show opposition to the IMF/EU bail out. Yet the ULA while doing well is not able to come close to this level of support . Why is this? We try and raise some questions in this regard here.

It is very good to see the development of the United left Alliance In Ireland. It can only strengthen the working class movement. All left groups and activists should be active within it. Hopefully the ULA will receive substantial support in the election and be able to establish a fighting group of TD's, in the Dail. Our blog is unconditionally for this development. However this is not all there is to say. We must look at the past and look into the future also.

Some of us have been arguing for this development for some years now. It was a mistake that it was not taken then. It was not right to say as some who are now in the ULA did that no progress could have been made. The main reason no steps were taken back then was because of the legacy of left sectarianism in the movement. Too many left groups put what they saw as their own interests ahead of the needs of the movement. It is very good that left sectarianism has been weakened and the ULA has been able to be formed. The ULA reflects the weakening of left sectarianism. But it would be a mistake to think that this damaging phenomenon is gone completely or is gone for good.

There are left groups and activists who to their shame are still not prepared to be part of the ULA. This is a mistake and damaging to the workers movement. This must be stated openly and these groups identified and debated. Rather than directly take them on and risk increasing left sectarianism further left sectarianism as a phenomenon in its own right should be taken on and all groups and individuals should be called on to oppose it. To facilitate this all of us should start by criticizing our own pasts when all on the left practiced left sectarianism.

Also we need to recognize that the ULA itself is a very new phenomenon. The groups that make it up were practicing left sectarianism themselves in the very recent past. We need to recognize these realities and openly identify left sectarianism, the damage it has done and openly and honestly discuss our own role in practicing it and committing ourselves to opposing it in the future.

The other issue in relation to the ULA is the mood in the country. There is clearly support for the ULA and its position of refusing to bail out the bankers, its refusal to accept the IMF/EU bail out. A plurality of people in polls oppose the IMF/EU deal. Yet the ULA support in polls comes nowhere close to the numbers that are opposed to the IMF/EU bail out. Why is this? I believe one reason is that a large section of the population while opposing the bail out do not think the ULA can achieve what it stands for. This raises the question. How can the ULA convince more people that it can affect events? I think there are two aspects to this.

One the ULA has to popularize the idea that there is an alternative (TIAA) and explain clearly this alternative. People are afraid that if the bail out is not accepted the country will go bankrupt. This must be answered. It is not enough to say that it is immoral to bail out the banks. An answer has to be given to what happens if they are not bailed out and they collapse. I believe we have to explain that they should all be nationalized and along with them the country's oil and gas wealth and its major companies with compensation only on the basis of proven need. As well as this all bank accounts to be looked at and those of the rich taxed at a much higher rate than the smaller accounts and all accounts examined to see where the money came from. At the same time approach wikileaks and other such organizations for the information that they have on bank accounts held abroad.

From this we have to make central to our program the establishment of a huge investment fund made up of the wealth of the rich which can then be used to develop the economy. None of it to go to bail out the banks and the corporations, all of it to invest in and build the economy. This idea of building this investment fund from the rich has to be explained and built around as the basis for dealing with the problems economy. It is not enough as Joe Higgins says to say it is immoral to bail out the banks. It is. But people will not put themselves on the line unless they can see a concrete alternative which will work.TIAA has to be concretely explained.

And on tactics. Protests and lobbying and flyering are not enough in this situation. Patient explanation is not enough in this situation. Working people have to see that victories can be won. Mass direct action has to be carried out. the ULA must lead on this. The entire ULA leadership and candidates has to spell out their commitment. Yes it is good to say they will if elected live on an average workers wage. But this is not much. After all workers live on a workers wage. Probable close to a majority live on less than an average workers wage. So this is only important if it is compared to the candidates of the capitalist parties and the union leaders. What has to be looked at is taking this campaign of the ULA in the direction of ending business as usual for the economy and the state. The union leadership should be taking this action through strikes and general strikes. But they are refusing to act. The ULA leadership has to take action and while doing so appeal to all workers union and non union and this action has to be based on the idea that the ULA is not going to go along with business as usual. TIAA and No more business as usual. NMBAU.

What this means is that the ULA, led by its leaders must move to occupy the banks and places where decisions are made in relation to the looting of the country and the bail out. Select banks and occupy them. Select the homes and neighborhoods and businesses of the business people and politicians who have robbed the country and brought it to its knees and occupy them. Call for support for these actions and make it clear that the ULA is in this for the fight and declare that its leaders are going to jail and staying in jail if this is what it takes. End business as usual through mass direct action and call on support from all for this. This is the way to build the movement against the bail out and to build the ULA. People have to see that the ULA is different, that it is fighting to win, that through mass direct action it is no longer accepting business as usual. NMBAU.

I can hear it now. Aye but if you do that the country will be cut off from all credit and trade. The alternative that is now being taken is that the country will be still given credit and trade as long as the criminals and swindlers of the banks and corporations are bailed out. The country, or rather the working people are being blackmailed. There is an alternative - reject the blackmail. Take over the wealth and set up our own investment fund under workers control and management and on this basis establish a democratic planned socialist economy. I can hear the capitalists and their flunkies again. Yes but we will be able to import nothing and the economy will grind to a halt.

It is not the bankers who sail the ships or fly the planes that bring the goods to the country or take the goods from the country. It is the working class in this country and internationally. So our alternative is to reject the international financial criminals and swindlers and their blackmail and instead link with the international working class. The working class can run a financial system which can facilitate trade not swindle the people of the world. The capitalists have proven they cannot run the financial system.

So this is what we have to do and do it in clear unapologetic terms. That is we break with capitalism entirely. That is we break with the IMF, the EU, the entire profit system. This is what has to be spelled out. It is a weakness of the ULA that they are not sufficiently spelling this out. This weakness is reflected in the talk about the IMF/EU bail out being immoral. Of course it is immoral. But his is not the point. Workers know the entire system is immoral. The point is to explain how we can keep the economy going, keep ships and planes transporting goods from the country's shores, keep factories and offices working. The only way to do this is the working class taking over in Ireland and linking with the working class internationally. This has to be spelled out. No to international capitalism. Yes to international socialism.

World wide regimes are shaking. The Egyptian working class unprecedented in their magnificent determination. We have to be able to lift ourselves above the pressures of capitalism and what they say is possible and not possible. We have to see that capitalism is weak and the working class are very angry and ready to struggle if they are given an explanation of the alternative and shown how they can struggle and most important of all how they can win.

The leadership of the ULA should now take action that achieves these results.


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author by Alan Davis - IBTpublication date Thu Feb 10, 2011 15:15author email alan.bolshevik at gmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'd agree with the thrust of the aspirations you put forward but would like to know what your programme is regarding the state - both in terms of the repressive apparatus and the government.

In my opinion the platform of ULA is completely deficient in these areas and is limited to an implicit reformist fantasy that the fundamental social change necessary can be achieved through the capitalist parliamentary framework and it has nothing to say about the repressive apparatus of the state, though I understand that its components all share the illusion of some kind of "community control".

Do you agree with the ULA's reformist approach or do you have an alternative?

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author by Ipsopublication date Thu Feb 10, 2011 22:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Allowing the state to monitor bank accounts of the people, and take action based on that information.
The rich will move their money offshore. The poor will suffer at home. God knows what the powerful will do with the infomation.

How can such authoritarianism benefit the poor. It would restrict personal freedom, and cement personal circumstances. It would not even benefit the wealthy, with the exception of the ultra rich who can play at the highest level. Ultimately it would only benefit the authoritarians themselves.

Have you not seen the state people have made of the country, and of the world, when decisions are made by the super rich, self important minority. Granting more power to an even more self important minority won't help. We need a more functional democracy - we need to have more people making the decisions that effect us all. Maybe we need to have a better informed and better educated public for that, but we have plenty to go on right now. Standard of education is only going downhill from here. There could be an open access assessment exam in order to progress to a further level of democratic involvement. Voluntary of course - financial incentives are counter productive to the proper running of the country.

ULA aren't really convincing me. All I'm hearing is "we will get rid of this and that bad things", but I haven't really heard plans that I think will work.
Sinn Fein make more sense tbh, but can you trust em?

"all bank accounts to be looked at and those of the rich taxed at a much higher rate than the smaller accounts and all accounts examined to see where the money came from"

author by Alan Davis - IBTpublication date Sat Feb 12, 2011 01:50author email alan.bolshevik at gmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

What do you think of this piece on the election, particularly its critique of the ULA's reformism?

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author by D_D - PBPA-ULA individualpublication date Tue Feb 15, 2011 00:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

John, give the ULA a chance will yah! Calm down. The ULA is less than four months old. It has flung open a window to be sure and quicker than old campaigners ever envisaged. It has an election to fight. It is as yet formally only an electoral alliance.

Left sectarianism is not just about division and conflict within the left. It is also about isolation from the class and the real world. Living in a sect, a bit like living in a religious sect, living an illusion. You have a proud record of opposition to the former side of sectarianism, a record that makes your welcome for the ULA warmly welcome to these eyes.

Yet as regards programme, strategy and tactics you seem to mix sound advice with hopeless ultra leftism. You are perfectly perceptive to identify the need people feel for a concrete answer to the question 'if we default, burn the bondholders, where will we get the money to pay for nurses wages and the petrol to run ambulances?' The left needs money answers or concrete steps to propose for what happens the morning after - or better still, the month before - refusal to adhere to the IMF/EU deal. You do not - nor would I expect you to from a distance - give detailed, costed, alternatives, but you should know that the Irish left is feeling its way towards them. Or perhaps towards refusing to play the media's game of 'where would you get the 19 billion?'

You wish the ULA to move rapidly from the election and then from propaganda to providing the active leadership for resistance. Are you aware of the experience of 2010 and the fact that the left has sought by all kinds of devices, campaigns and initiatives - often in the face of sobre reason - to bring the masses out on to the street in the absence of such a lead from the trade unions leadership? That the Irish people are undergoing the severest and most shocking drop from boom to bust in Europe? That the only body so far capable of mobilising tens of thousands has been the trade union leadership and that that leadership is, coincidentally, the weakest and most compromised in Europe? That as yet the left, with all the progress it is making, is as far from taking the place of that leadership as you are from where I am now typing?

Direct action? You should know that the incidents to date have sometimes been counter productive, sometimes a heartening spectacle and always a firelighter that has not lit the fire. Are you really proposing that the four or five TDs that might get elected for the ULA, along with some other leading ULA supporters, occupy a bank as the main way forward and chief activity for the ULA and the left in the short term? You speak of "mass direct action". That would be a good thing: MASS direct action. To urge Joe Higgins, Richard Boyd Barrett, Seamus Healy and Joan Collins to lead two dozen others in direct action in the coming months is substitutionism of the first order. There is a power of work to be done, on the ground, in the communities, in the workplaces, in the unions, in the meeting rooms, on the media, on the internet, in discussion, on the streets, over the long haul before the left on its own is near to commanding a call for mass direct action, or even a MASS demonstration.

You seem to go further, urging that "we break with capitalism entirely. That is we break with the IMF, the EU, the entire profit system. This is what has to be spelled out. It is a weakness of the ULA that they are not sufficiently spelling this out." The first shakey steps to breaking out of decades of divided isolation have been taken and already you are sounding the clarion call to revolution! Do you know that the ULA has yet to agree, and may not do so for some time, to use the word 'socialism'? The ULA is the beginning of a process. You hold up the example of the Egyptian revolution. It is indeed a thrilling example. But even here you are running ahead. The Egyptian revolution has as yet removed a dictator whose place has been taken by a military junta for, hopefully, the time being.

Cairo may not be as far from a "break with capitalism entirely" as Dublin is but, on the other hand, so far it is taking for itself the democratic freedoms and capacities that we - however imperfectly and precariously - already have in Dublin.

author by individual voterpublication date Tue Feb 15, 2011 02:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The only regular masses found around Ireland are sports supporters pouring out of stadia after weekend events. Once in a blue moon 100 thousand or more people have joined tax protests (in 1980) or demonstrations against the US-British decision to attack Iraq (February 2003). It wasn't the revolutionary stalwarts in fringe groupings who 'mobilised the masses' on such occasions, but widespread trans-class feelings among citizens that the taxation system was inequitable or the attack on Iraq based on false premises. Television, radio and newspaper commentary by centrist and a few left-leaning journalists helped to get the crowds out, not the doctrinaire newssheets produced by the militant groups.

Mass action is always temporary as emotions simmer down and people get back to their daily routines. People don't want to, and cannot, live in a continuing state of hyped up political and economic emotional tension.

Several of the ULA candidates have worked steadily in their various localities for many years campaigning on unemployment, bureaucratic neglect, corruption and other issues. Much of their work has had nothing to do with platform speeches aimed at 'galvanising the masses'; in fact it is one-to-one communication on doorsteps, in street corners and at meetings of residents associations in people's sitting rooms that has gained the respect and following for activists who now hope that voters will remember their painstaking commitment.

Theoreticians and platform orators who believe that the masses are living lives of false consciousness and that the masses will eventually snap out of it and follow the true leaders-in-waiting are living in clouds of deluded grandeur. Revolutionists pander mass delusions.

author by D_D - PBPA - ULA individualpublication date Tue Feb 15, 2011 15:33author address author phone Report this post to the editors

You are partly correct 'individual voter'. The gap beween the left and a 'mass' following is a wide gulf and the recognition of this is the beginning of political wisdom. You are being over negative about collective action and revolution. A glance across North Africa and the Middle East at this very moment shows that mass movements are not a delusion.

There have been more recent large manifestations since the tax marches and the anti-war march. Several large ICTU, union and community marches since the beginning of the slump and a whole series of local marches last year, in defence of hospitals, which brought out almost entire town populations.

Interestingly both the tax marches (the Trades Councils) and the anti-war march (IAWM, Richard Boyd Barrett, etc.) had radical left people at their centre. The other organising factors you mention were crucial, sure, (and your point about consistent work on the ground being essential for successful election candidates is well made) but the people at the organising centre, and those who spoke on the platforms at both occasions, were key as well.

You are right to sedate delusions of revolutionary grandeur but your pseudonym of 'individual voter' denotes the isolated powerlessness that can be and continually is overcome by large numbers of people acting together.

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