Craig Murphy, a member of the Socialist Party in Ireland, reports on the resignation of four prominent comrades and the dishonest response of the leadership
Clare Daly and Joe Higgins: happier times
On Sunday July 7 an aggregate meeting of the Socialist Party (Committee for a Workers’ International Ireland) was held in Wynn’s Hotel, Dublin to discuss the resignation of four comrades.
Notably these comrades had individually emailed letters of resignation to the party staff. Moreover those resigning had occupied positions of considerable importance: Jimmy Dignam had worked in Joe Higgins’ office in parliament; Richard O’Hara had been branch secretary in the Swords branch in north Dublin during the Clare Daly debacle which dogged the SP throughout the second half of last year and worked full-time in parliament; Andrew Phelan had been involved in forming the independent Fightback group in the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland (outside party stricture); and Megan Ní Ghabhláin had similarly been involved in organising a militant opposition to Croke Park 21 in the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, which is one of the two largest teachers’ unions in Ireland. Hence their resignations could not pass without mention.
That the comrades had written letters detailing their differences and that an aggregate meeting had been organised to discuss the resignations had been made known to me at the previous branch meeting. The letters themselves, however, were not to be revealed to members until the Sunday aggregate for fear they would “fall into the public domain”.
When I arrived at Wynn’s on Sunday I began summarising the most salient arguments of O’Hara’s letter - as his arguments were the most developed - as soon as I received a copy. Summarisation was compelled, as members were not allowed to keep their copies - the absurdity of having a ‘democratic discussion’ regarding the resignation letters, while not being allowed to view the letters beforehand and retain them afterward, unfortunately seemed to be lost on the rest of the room. Clearly the intention of holding the meeting was to reassure the SP’s uninformed membership of the infallibility of the leadership and pre-empt any further dissension.
With 60 members in attendance, the meeting began with a 40-minute lead-off by Kevin McLoughlin, the SP general secretary. McLoughlin’s talk did not address primarily the content of the resignation letters. Instead, as was his stated intention, he focused on the ‘Irish context’ in which the comrades resigned (as opposed to the hallowed Egyptian context). In his view the decisions to resign were only explicable against this background: the difficulty of party-building since the crisis, the collapse of the United Left Alliance (ULA),2 the failure of the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes (CAHWT) to prevent the implementation of the Property Tax and the rollback of trade union opposition to ‘Croke Park 2’ represented by the Haddington Road agreement.3
As I had quickly read the letters prior to the beginning of the meeting, it swiftly became clear to me that in concentrating on the Irish background to the resignations, McLoughlin was attempting to provide an explanation of the comrades’ decisions to resign utterly removed from the reasons given. And so the resigned comrades were variously described as being disheartened or demoralised by the trials of the Irish situation (due no doubt, of course, to their inability to see the dazzling militancy of the Egyptian masses). Furthermore, given that those who resigned had not participated in party activity for some time before their resignations, their disagreements with the party were reduced to being the result of inactivity itself. This crude, false judgement distorts the reality that the inactivity and resignation of comrades were both products of a common disillusionment with the nature and conduct of the SP itself. Moreover, it is intended to consign the reasons for withdrawal from party activity and ultimately resignation to the realm of psychological rationalisation; not political disagreement.
The little of the content of the letters McLoughlin did address was done in an unprincipled manner. For example, Richard O’Hara’s criticism of the use of the slate system in national committee elections, on the grounds that it institutionalises conformity amongst the NC and, alongside the secrecy of NC and executive committee meetings, produces unaccountability of the leadership to the membership of the party. McLoughlin dismissed such reasoning by pointing out that the slate system used by the SP was also subject to candidate nominations by individual members of the party to the slate, which will then be considered by the outgoing leadership. As the reader has no doubt recognised, this is merely an evasive, incidental argument and does not amount to a principled defence of the use of a slate system. As for the papal secrecy of NC and EC meetings, the general secretary had nothing to say.
Going further still, McLoughlin incredibly construed O’Hara’s criticism of the slate system as an attack on the very concept of leadership and party, when he referred to the departed comrades as pandering to an “anarcho mood that’s out there”. This falsification was to be parroted by almost every other speaker during the course of the meeting.
When the floor was opened for discussion, the circumlocutions of McLoughlin gave way to a slew of vulgar denunciations. In general, I will not waste the reader’s time chronicling who said what exactly; a worthless exercise, given that it all congealed into a droning three-hour morass of philistine pontification. Rather I will detail the recurring sophisms which were used, first to adulterate and then to speciously dispense with the protests of the resigned comrades, in a reprehensible, straw-man fashion.
The resigned comrades were repeatedly accused of abandoning the revolutionary party. The evidence for this being furnished by O’Hara’s confession: “Ultimately I do not regard myself as a Trotskyist.” The various speakers took this as O’Hara’s self-imposed fall from grace, the guilt of which had driven him, inevitably, away from any faith in the party of revolution. Tony Saunois from the CWI’s international secretariat jolted to the conclusion that all the arguments of the resigned are just “rationalisations for their abandonment of Trotskyism”. Saunois also did not miss the opportunity to reaffirm the laity, by explaining that, even though the ULA and CAHWT had been failures, they were but a foretaste of things to come. After all ‘the crisis’ is still with us.
Should we dare look, however, to the writing of the heretic O’Hara we would find he had “been in the process of clarifying [his] thoughts on what type of party is needed in the struggle to overthrow capitalism and [had] come to the conclusion that the Socialist Party cannot serve as this party”. Moreover, “In recent years, there has been a large amount of scholarship on Leninism and Bolshevism and its misinterpretation by those on the left and right.” He continued: “I believe that a large part of the answer to failures of the left lies here. The actual experience of the Bolshevik Party needs to be rediscovered and transplanted to a modern context in order to rebuild a genuine revolutionary socialist party” - a veritable Hydra of counterrevolution indeed. As for the historical research - a reference, of course, to the work of Lars T Lih - it was dismissed from the floor as the preserve of academics, not genuine class warriors.
And so it continued, with the departed comrades having the charge of temporising with reformism added to their ahistorical, anarchistic anti-Trotskyism. Since this is merely the corollary of the supposed abandonment of the revolutionary party, it does not merit serious discussion.
Take note, however, of the SP’s complete inability to recognise any differing Marxist conception of revolution and revolutionary politics. Mind you, this is not to give the SP the credit of having any clear understanding of what a socialist revolution is and what it entails (in the SP to articulate the need for such an understanding would be considered ‘dogmatic’ and ‘ultra-leftist’). But it does give us an insight into the monolithic sectarianism of the SP, where ‘revolutionary’ means us and ‘reformist’ means them. Without any recognition of the political tasks of a Communist Party the meaning of these words will continue to be consigned to the realm of sectarian mudslinging (alongside such shibboleths as ‘dialectical and undialectical thinking’).
Abstract and concrete
The greatest refusal to hear criticism, however, was announced with claims that O’Hara’s letter contained too many “abstract generalisations” and not enough “concrete criticisms” of the party. Noting the bourgeois prejudice here (where ‘abstract’ equals ‘bad’ and ‘concrete’ equals ‘good’), let us take a look at some of O’Hara’s frightful abstractions:
“... fundamentally I do not feel the party is a truly democratic organisation that it is built in a way that will allow it to grow, nor do I feel that is capable of dealing with the low level of political and class consciousness at the moment and rebuilding the workers’ movement.”
“I feel there is a serious democratic deficit within the Socialist Party. Slates are an inappropriate way of electing a leadership. No minutes, records of votes or written reports of national committee or executive committee meetings are distributed. It is impossible for ordinary members to know which members of the leadership bodies are playing a positive role and which ones you might agree or disagree with on a particular issue.”
“Branch democracy is also non-existent. In essence, the full-timers pick those people that they think are most equipped to build the party in a particular way and install them as the branch committee, ultimately making the most important decisions about how the branch is run, if not all the finer details.”
The true terror of the word ‘democracy’ here lies not in abstraction, but that it could be misunderstood as a majority of the membership having control over the direction and operation of the SP. Sadly the term was dismissed from the floor as being “just a phrase”.
“Discussion, debate and disagreement around serious issues of perspectives, tactics and theory have to be encouraged within the party. They simply are not and I do not believe they ever will be.”
“There is a doctrinal and dogmatic approach to theory which generally consists of new recruits having the politics of the party ‘explained’ to them enough times until they agree.”
“Rosa [the SP-sponsored campaign for Reproductive rights, against Oppression, Sexism and Austerity] is a front, in the style of the SWP, designed to bring potential recruits closer to the party”. (Rosa, we were assured, was no front, as the SP’s website openly acknowledged that it was the property of the party.)
“There are other issues that I find deeply problematic: our (lack of) trade union work, our perspectives and attitude to the campaign against the property tax (which struck me as deeply unrealistic); I also think the paper is extremely poor - a low level of politics and lack of theory, the lack of real input about the content from ordinary members and the drab and repetitive nature of the articles”.
But where is O’Hara going with all this? After all, it is just ‘all so complex’. For, you see, the lack of democracy in the SP is not related to the absence of discussion within the SP, which has nothing to do with the dogmatic approach to theory foisted upon the membership, which has no bearing to the abysmal quality of the paper to which members cannot contribute, and none of these things can be associated with the adoption of deeply unrealistic positions or the establishment of sectarian fronts over which the membership has no control.
For the party apparatus to recognise the connections between these ‘issues’ would be to recognise that they are responsible for the inability of the Socialist Party to grow beyond anything but a sect. It is their institutionalised conduct of control and obedience which ensures that the SP will always drive away members - whose participation in activity is always voluntary - as soon as they begin to think critically: ie, for themselves.
1. There exist no means for members to alter the course of the organisation. Decisions are made by the executive committee, which is elected from the national committee, which, though elected by the membership, will rarely be opposed due to the slate system. Once the executive’s decisions are made, they are passed on to the branch committees, which, after deciding how the branch is to enact the refined will of the EC, initiate a branch ‘discussion’ on the activity the branch members are expected to perform. It is not a coincidence that the phrase ‘flesh out’ is often used as a synonym for discussion in the SP. Members are not deciding on positions and activity, but rather are simply concretising what has already been decided.
2. Should a comrade object to the new course in the midst of a branch meeting, the party staffer present will typically take them aside and offer them the opportunity of a private meeting in the SP’s offices, where they will have the party line explained to them ad nauseum. The SP’s high turnover of membership - an effect of the executive’s usurpation of all strategic decision-making - means that, should the dissenting comrade persist, they will find themselves isolated in the branch, surrounded by inexperienced and uncritical new comrades. The only recourse, it seems, is resignation.
3. If I may offer a criticism of my own of O’Hara’s letter, I take issue with his reference to the SP’s “over-emphasis on agreement with the finer details of the revolutionary programme”. Similarly two other resigned comrades expressed sentiments of basic programmatic agreement and even concern for the pillorying of the SP’s programme, due no doubt to its participation in the ULA and CAHWT (and, perhaps more simply, parliament). While O’Hara was being diplomatic, I find all three statements to be founded on the falsehood that the SP actually has a programme. No such programme exists.
A Marxist programme would be a document which, having been produced and deliberated upon by all members of the party, would outline the general views and ambitions of communism - abolition of the state, of classes, of the law of value, of patriarchy and women’s oppression, all of which are to give way to the free development of the individual as the condition of the free development of humanity, productively, sexually, intellectually. Alongside this would appear a list of concrete demands, usually divided into a political section, the purpose of which is to outline the revolutionary democratic means by which the rule of the capitalist class (the rule of law) shall be supplanted by the workers’ republic (the rule of the majority); and an economic section, which attempts, through the reality of struggle, to improve the position of the working class under capitalism, to aid the pre-socialist organisation of labour and to develop the workers’ understanding of themselves as a class.
4. In contrast the SP, with its transitional method, aims to tailor its demands to the present consciousness of workers as they are, not as the future ruling class, in the erroneous belief that participation in working class struggle of any kind will generate a socialist consciousness.
For example, the SP held a public meeting prior to the conclusion of the Haddington Road agreement, during the first half of which the awfulness of the Croke Park agreement, the trade union leadership, and austerity generally was expounded unto death - as though the audience did not know. Following an almost mute floor discussion, the meeting was continued with the airing of the usual vague reassurances that the SP stood for “democratic and fighting unions” - in point of fact a falsehood, given that the SP, until the Croke Park 2 ‘no’ vote, viewed trade unionism as a waste of time and actively discouraged Phelan’s and Ní Ghabhláin’s efforts. And, to reassure the floor of the SP’s ‘credibility’, the table presented ‘solutions’ to the Irish state’s €16.2 billion fiscal deficit. There followed the expected reformist drivel about the need for higher corporate and capital gains taxation, a wealth tax, a financial transactions tax and so on. Given that Ireland’s ‘Celtic tiger’ boom was the unanticipated result of the republic’s long-standing tax haven status and that the Irish bourgeoisie’s place amongst its class globally is maintained by its international financial services, one must conclude that it is ‘easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle’ than for these demands to be realised.
At the meeting’s very end, Joe Higgins had the presence of mind to tersely remind the floor that we stand for socialism and do not believe that capitalism can be ‘fixed’ anyway. This no doubt transitional approach amounted to nothing more than a sectarian advertising adventure. It is akin to trying to persuade someone who believes the Earth to be flat that it is in fact a sphere by first convincing them that it is a cube. The terrible irony here is that such ‘credible’ demands are utterly impossible to achieve under capitalism and do not even articulate the need for socialism. They are truly transitional to nothing; save sowing illusions.
The inevitable effect of this ‘transitional’ routine - in which the (supposed) socialist consciousness of the SP plays no part - is that the SP’s ‘programme’ is nothing more than an eclectic, incoherent mess of demands that could never advance the cause of socialism. Socialism is an utter non-sequitur as far as the actual practice of the SP is concerned. And suddenly the abandonment of ‘socialism’ by ULA TD Clare Daly for mindless community activism no longer looks inexplicable.
Without the membership majority animating the party through a directly elected leadership, bound to a Marxist programme, which can only be augmented by the majority, and facilitating the debate and polemic necessary, not only to democratically arrive at positions, but to allow comrades to develop themselves as Marxists, the SP will remain as profoundly alienating a place. This produces a constant membership turnover, whereby new recruits are garnered by the fatiguing of established members. The result - the SP’s inability to build an involved cadre membership - is compensated for by its bloated apparatus and national committee (roughly comprising 20 and 35 people respectively, in an organisation of little over 100). Thus is the sect reproduced!
One is forced to conclude that the SP will never be the party of the Irish working class.
1. The Croke Park agreement - named after the Gaelic Athletic Association’s largest stadium, where negotiations between the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the state took place - was signed on June 6 2010. After the previous year’s budgetary adjustment of €4 billion, partly resulting from 5%-10% reductions in public-sector pay, there was a trickle of trade union militancy among public servants. In order to maintain control of the situation the state promised the unions that there would be no further pay cuts or forced redundancies in the public sector in exchange for their compliance with the government’s plans for public sector rationalisation. As of March 2012 the agreement has resulted in 28,000 ‘voluntary’ redundancies and a €3.1 billion reduction in public-sector pay.
2. The ULA brought together the SP, the Socialist Workers Party in Ireland and other groups and campaigns to contest the 2011 general election. Five ULA candidates were elected as TDs, but this did not stop the sectarian infighting and the SP walked out of the alliance in January 2013.
3. The failed ‘Croke Park 2’ agreement was voted down by union members’ ballots in February this year, with the opposition being led by teachers’ and nurses’ unions and the police. Its successor, the Haddington Road agreement, is only slightly amended, and will lead to €1 billion in public-sector pay cuts, extended working weeks and effectively eliminates the overtime for which many public-sector workers (particularly the police) are dependent on to ensure mortgage obligations can be met.
This is where national divisions, indeed nationalism itself, can falter in providing a revolutionary analysis for those living in the developed world. Those on the bottom rung of the ladder nationally have an affinity with their fellow nationals rather than those globally who share their economic position. This kind of wealth division needs to be seen squarely in an internationalist context.
Its even worse than that, because from the third decile on, people believe they have a stake in the status quo and are likely to direct their anger at the lowest two deciles, who they feel threaten their "privilege."
I would be interested in seeing a global table like this. With so much wealth concentrated in the hands of such a small percentage, it is amazing that so many people with such a small portion of the world's wealth still feel some sort of loyalty to the current system. If they could see that an equal share would actually increase their share of the wealth, this would be an important step in raising their consciousness of their true place in the world.
Although from a revolutionary point of view, this graph is not particularly encouraging. Even the third most wealthy decile has nearly the 10% share that they would have under an equal distribution, which means based on this valuation of wealth alone that 3 out of 10 people have no interest in changing the system. Even the next 2 deciles don't have a huge amount less than their equal share, and may well consider that it is not in their interests to risk what they have for a slightly increased share of the wealth. That leaves only 50% of the population with any significant interest in fighting. And that's before you factor in all the other things that mitigate against revolution.
This is probably as stable a wealth distribution that capitalism could produce, in that it gives just enough to just enough people to ensure that the system continues.
"International headlines have trumpeted Prime Minister Abe Shinzo's decisive win in Japan's upper house election July 21. But the election results indicate the potential defeat of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's economic and constitutional agenda. Called "Abenomics" by the Japanese Communist Party, Abe's plan seeks to make Japan "the most business friendly country in the world" by repealing worker protections and corporate regulations, while reducing corporate taxes and increasing taxes for the general public. In addition, Abe plans to "prime the pump" with nuclear power and a renewed push to build up Japan's military forces. While the agenda still holds majority support, the ground is shifting and public opposition is gaining momentum."
FULL ARTICLE >>> http://www.peoplesworld.org/japanese-communists-may-emerge-as-main-opposition-to-abenomics/
Following the attempt to intercept the Irish Volunteers landing of German arms at Howth, on 26 July 1914, the returning British soldiers of the King's Own Scottish Borderers were mocked and jeered for their failure. The Brits then opened fire on the people with three been murdered, Mrs Duffy, James Brennan and Patrick Quinn—and 38 injured including bayonet wounds. The British ' inquiry ' of course exonerated all, claiming that a officer who had joined them en route was unaware that their rifles were prepared to fire, and gave the order to face the crowd the jeering people lining the street. While he was addressing the civilians, a shot was fired by one of the troops and this was followed by a volley. No prosecutions of the murderers of course and the cover up in this manner was repeated by the British for Bloody Sunday Croke Park, Derry etc.
More than 1000 inmates escape from Libyan jail
About 1,200 inmates have escaped from a jail in the restive Libyan city of Benghazi.
A security official told the AP news agency that most of the escapees were facing serious charges.
Another report said a riot had taken place inside the al-Kwafiya prison.
The jailbreak comes a day after the assassination of a prominent political activist triggered protests in the city, although it is not clear whether the two are connected.
Benghazi is one of the most unstable parts of post-revolution Libya. Last year the US ambassador and three other Americans were killed there.
Earlier protesters attacked offices linked to the Muslim Brotherhood following the assassination of the prominent political activist Abdelsalam al-Mismari.
AFP news agency quoted a security official saying that some of the escapees were linked to the regime of Col Muammar Gaddafi. The former dictator was toppled in an uprising in August 2011.
"There was a riot inside al-Kwafiya prison, as well as an attack from outside," the official said.
"Special forces called in as reinforcements were given orders not to fire at the prisoners."
AFP also quoted Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan saying local residents had set the inmates free because "they don't want the prison near their homes".
There are about 150,000 state owned enterprises (SOEs) in China, and many of them are under the direct management of a public body the State Assets Supervision and Administration Committee (Sasac).
When China launched its economic reforms in 1978, SOEs generated about 80% of China's gross domestic product. This has now dropped to about 18%, but SOEs remain a powerful force in the Chinese economy as they still employ about half of China's 750 million workforce and control just over 50% of its industrial assets. Further, they dominate some key sectors of the economic landscape such as power, telecommunications, financial services and transport.
As for the banks, it seems the SOE's still get preference:
According to Xinhua, at the end of 2011, there were 144,700 state-owned enterprises with total assets of 85.4 trillion yuan, revenues of 39.25 trillion yuan, and profits of 2.6 trillion yuan (43 percent of China’s total industrial and business profit).
85 percent of loans in 2009 were issued to SOEs, because banks themselves are state-owned, and are directed to let credit flow to other state-owned businesses. SOEs can get money more cheaply, paying lower rates for borrowing, and are more blasé about repaying these loans: SOE borrowing was a major source of non-performing loans in past crises.
I agree with what your saying - though when was the last time the free state built social housing? The liberals certainly have the upper hand, but the CCP is a very large party. If you look for signs of retreat, you will certainly see them. I'm just asking that we also be aware of the signs of progress. I have no doubt that liberalism is being resisted, and we should be aware of that resistance and support it.
In my view, liberalism is greatly weakened in the the world, and Marxists are finding their old confidence.
The ILO puts the figure in 1994 at approx 35% of the workforce (i'm unaware of any factor whereby that would have increased this significantly, I suspect it has decreased), which is high by international standards, but not exceptional and nowhere near Egypt or India. The state capitalist model does have advantages over the market capitalist model. China however is liberalising its economy, it is encouraging more and more private enterprise, it is moving away from communism. Communists should be challenging this. Its certainly no reason to support the fall of the PRC in favour of a pure market economy, but its moving that way by itself.
If the expansion of the private sector continues, it won't be long until the banks are under the de facto control of the capitalists rather than the CCP, if this hasn't happened already. Nominal state ownership of banks is worthless, as our own experience in Ireland clearly shows us.
Very true, but the fact is that poverty has been greatly reduced. The World Bank claims that 600 million people have been raised out of poverty in China over the last 30 years. It also has to be said that one of the main criticisms that China's state companies get is that they employ millions of people "just to give them jobs." The UN predicts that China's poverty rate will be 5% by 2015. That's an incredible achievement, given what China was like under imperialist misrule.
Irish Water Meter Installation Jobs
Irish Water (Uisce Eireann) are responsible for the water metering program which is due to begin in August 2013. Irish Water have appointed 3 regional contractors who will be overseeing the installation projects.
The government keep saying there will be 1600 jobs - but most of the actual water meter installation work will be passed on to approved sub-contractors who have already applied for and been granted approval by Irish Water . So in reality there will probably not be 1600 new jobs because many of the subcontractors will already have employees in place . The metering program is expected to last until 2016.
The 3 regional water metering contractors are:
GMC/Sierra : Counties : Dublin City, Wicklow, Kildare, Offaly, Laois, Mayo, Roscommon, Donegal, Sligo, and Leitrim.
email email@example.comGMC House , Millennium Business Park ,Cappagh Road, Dublin 11
Tel: +353 (1) 864 9800
Murphy Group : Counties : Kerry, Cork, Galway, Clare, North Tipperary, and Limerick . email firstname.lastname@example.org
Murphy Group , Great Connell , Newbridge, Co. Kildare
Tel: 00 353 454 31384
Coffey Group / Northumbrian Water : Counties Monaghan, Cavan, Dundalk, Longford, Westmeath, and Meath . email : email@example.com
Coffey Group, Athenry, Co. Galway, Ireland Tel: +353 91 844356
To be considered for a job in the water metering programme – Irish Water have asked that applicants send an email with Irish Water as the title along with your C.V. to the relevant email address for the regional contractor given above .
Irish Water is the newly established public water utility responsible for operating and providing public water and waste water services in Ireland. They operate as an independent State owned subsidiary within the Bord Gáis Éireann Group. Website : www.water.ie