Friday, November 25, 2005

Ireland – ‘Campaign for an Independent Left’

The current issue of SOLIDARITY (Issue 15) carries a report by Colm Breatnach (reproduced below) on discussion on a left alternative in Ireland. The political platform, amended through disussion, and agreed at the founding meeting, is reproduced here for the first time.

Following months of discussion, a number of groups and individuals with a strong track record of campaigning on community and trade union issues have launched a campaign to form a new party of the left in Ireland.

The initiative was launched in June by two independent socialist elected representatives: Seamus Healy TD (Irish MP) and Councillor Joan Collins of Dublin City Council, representing two local organisations; the South Tipperary Workers' and Unemployed Action Group and the Community and Workers' Action Group based in the south western suburbs of Dublin. The Irish Socialist Network, a participatory socialist and Marxist organisation, has also played a key role in promoting this initiative.

Others involved include supporters of Red Banner magazine and a number of well known activists such as Des Derwin, vice-president of the Dublin Council of Trade Unions, Dermot Connolly, former General Secretary of the Socialist Party (CWI) and Roseanna Flynn, one of Ireland's leading anti-racist campaigners. Many of these comrades have also been involved, along with activists from the Labour’s Militant Voice in the US and comrades who produce SOLIDARITY in Britain, in the regular Trade Union Activists Forum held in Dublin since earlier this year.

This initiative is especially important given the fact that the main centre left parties, Labour, Sinn Fein and the Greens all now favour entering coalition with conservative parties rather than building a real alternative to neo-liberal policies of the right.

While there is no proposal to set up a new party prematurely, the long-term aim of the process is not just a coalition of existing left groups or the creation of yet another small left party, but the ambitious goal of creating a new mass party of the Irish working class. The campaign is open to working with other left forces but the participating organisations are committed to a bottom up, democratic type of organisation as opposed to the old top-down centralised leadership model.

The task now is to bring the message to working class communities that there is now a real possibility of building a movement that belongs to their class.

The groups involved come from varying backgrounds. The ISN is a democratic Marxist, Dublin/Belfast based group mostly made up of former members of the Workers Party and the SWP.

The STWUAG is a large regional organisation made up of community and trade union activists, with a strong local electoral base, having one member of the Dail (Irish Parliament) and a number of elected councillors. The CWAG is a similar organisation that grew out of the Anti-Bin Tax Campaign in the south western suburbs of Dublin. Most of its members are new to politics but some including CWAG councillor Joan Collins, are former members of the Socialist Party(CWI).

A number of individuals involved in the initiative are also part of the editorial group of the independent revolutionary socialist journal, Red Banner, who also come from various far-left backgrounds. Though some have jokingly called the new initiative 'the left-overs' because of our varied background, our experience on the left has meant that we have, so far, proceeded in the necessarily slow but systematic manner that arises from a commitment to democratic methods, rather then the top-down 'follow the leaders' method of the traditional far-left.

Colm Breatnach

Campaign for an Independent Left
Building a new party of working people

The individuals and groups involved in the Campaign for an Independent Left are united by the common aim of a radical transformation of Irish society. We are committed to the struggle to build a society where working people democratically control all aspects of their lives - social, economic, cultural and political - and where the gap between rich and poor is eliminated.

To help achieve this transformation, we believe it is necessary to develop a new independent all-Ireland party of working people. By independent we mean a party that we will oppose in real terms the right wing pro-capital parties, north and south, and will under no circumstances enter into government with them.

This will be a grassroots campaigning party—broad, pluralist, democratic, and with no agenda other than advancing the interests of working people.

We now commit ourselves to campaigning for such a party, winning over people active in the labour movement, community campaigns, and the various movements for social justice to get involved in making it a reality.

The following are the initial points of basic political agreement that have brought us together to begin this process.

1. No coalition with parties of the right, under any circumstances.

2. Public ownership and democratic control of the country’s resources and services, so that they can be developed in the interests of working people and our environment. An end to the privatisation or commercialisation of public services.

3. A comprehensive universal public health-care system. An end to all state subsidies for private health care.

4. A free, secular education system, aimed at the full and equal development of each human being from pre-school to university. An end to all state subsidies for private education.

5. The provision of housing as a basic right.

6. A public transport system based on the needs of users, not profit, and the protection of the environment.

7. A progressive taxation system that will redistribute wealth, making the rich pay their fair share, and lifting the burden of stealth and double taxes from working people.

8. No to so called “social partnership”. We want trade unions run democratically by their members, and fighting for their interests. Repeal all restrictive legislation against union activity. Unite Irish and migrant workers by fighting for basic trade union rights and conditions for all workers.

9. We believe in equality and solidarity between all working people—men and women, black and white, Travellers and settled people, Catholic and Protestant. We will offer 100 per cent opposition to all forms of racism, sexism and sectarianism.

10. We are for an inclusive, multi-cultural society with equal rites for all; asylum seekers should have the right to work; for an end to deportations; full citizenship for all children born in Ireland; work permits to be issued to workers and not employers.

11. A foreign policy based on opposition to imperialism, and solidarity with those fighting for democracy, justice and peace, the re establishment and maintenance of military neutrality, opposition to an EU dominated by big business and for a Europe of solidarity between working people.

We appeal to all individuals and groups who share our vision of a new party of working people to contact us and help build it in practice.


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