Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

ULA members: aligned or nonaligned…?

with 3 comments

The identification of the nonaligned, in the run up to the election of two nonaligned representatives to the Steering Committee of the United Left Alliance on 28th April, has led to some discussion at ULA Branch level.

The category of nonaligned is a little complicated. And may be even more complicated again if, for instance, somebody joined the Socialist Workers Party and then the ULA since the ULA was set up without ever joining the People Before Profit Alliance; indeed it would be difficult for someone recently joining the SWP in the Dublin Central area to join the PBPA before joining the ULA as the PBPA in Dublin Central has not been meeting or operating since the the establishment of the Dublin Central ULA.

The nonaligned category is a field trip for the political anorak already. Members of the PBPA who are not members of the SWP are not nonaligned because it is the PBPA, the Socialist Party and the South Tipperary Workers and Unemployed Action Group that are represented on the Steering Committee and to which you would or would not be aligned. So there are members in the ULA of long established political groups such as Socialist Democracy and the Irish Socialist Network who are nonaligned. ISN members have been welcomed into forums of the nonaligned. A looser but veteran political grouping such as Declan Bree’s group in Sligo (the Sligo/Leitrim Independent Socialist Organisation?*) are not represented on the Steering Committee and therefore are numbered among the nonaligned (if they are ULA members), as are a single supporter (or associate) each of two organised tendencies not otherwise represented in the country. One of the latter is running for one of the nonaligned positions.

The ULA Steering Committee, as I understand it, recognises all these as nonaligned because they do not belong to any of the three founding groups who make up the ULA Steering Committee. There is a great deal of political agreement among the nonaligned but it is a technical category and includes some who differ sharply with the general vision for the ULA of most nonaligned people.

A case could be made, if someone had the nerve to make it, that SWP members who are not PBPA members are nonaligned. The case against that would be that as SWP members they are represented on the ULA Steering Committee by the PBPA delegates, the SWP being represented on the PBPA Steering Committee. The nonaligned are being offered representation now because they have not been represented so far.

And how it fits into all this I’m not sure, but I believe that, until recently anyway, the South Tipperary Workers and Unemployed Action Group had no members in the ULA. There may have been a view that the whole of the STWUAG had joined the ULA en bloc and were represented on and participated through its membership of the ULA Steering Committee. And there is a certain logic to this as long as the ULA continues to be considered as an alliance or federation of three blocs. How new recruits directly to the ULA slot into this is being partly addressed through the nonaligned election of two reps to the Steering Committee.

To round off your enjoyment of this Friday pipeful I draw your attention to the obvious absence of some members of some, and maybe of all three, of the founding organisations from any meetings or activities of the ULA. It is reasonable to assume, and may be a good pluralist thing, that some members of some of the founding organisations are not, and do not see themselves as, members of the ULA.

But we’ll all be marching together tomorrow in Galway.

Won’t we?

Des Derwin

* Declan’s lively website ( mentions many affiliations but not the ULA.

Written by tomasoflatharta

Apr 14, 2012 at 12:17 am

3 Responses

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  1. The same issue broke out here in the Socialist Alliance Australia in the context that there were more “non aligned’ members than “aligned’. So the refit was that elections were opened up to all and affiliates were allocated weighted representation. The non aligned/aligned divide isn’t a healthy mix as it sets up false categories and only encourages the ‘non aligned’ to act as voter bloc in the same way the ‘aligned’ is thought to do. We also resolved a few issues by the main affiliate then not caucusing within the SA so that its members voted and argued according to argument.

    Otherwise: no trust.

    Dave Riley

    Apr 14, 2012 at 12:50 am

  2. If I recall correctly, Dave, the largest affiliate of the Australian Socialist Alliance first blocked with the “organised non-aligned” to push through a party structure, against the preferences of the other affiliates, all of whom then left. Then that affiliate promptly fell out with those same “non-aligned” people.

    In any case, the situation in Ireland is very different, with most ULA members being in one of the affiliates. Holding open votes would simply mean that each vote would be decided by which of the Socialist Party and SWP mobilised more people on that particular occasion and would have an inherently destructive dynamic.

    On the original posting, I don’t think that sorting out who is and is not “non-aligned” is particularly confusing. Members of the Socialist Party, Workers and Unemployed Action Group, People Before Profit (and therefore the SWP and CWAG components of the PBPA) are already represented on the steering committee. Nobody else is. Therefore, for our purposes everybody else is non-aligned. The continued nominal existence of the PBPA creates a bit of an anomoly, but it’s up to those involved in the PBPA to decide how to deal with that.

    Mark P

    Apr 15, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    • Consensus is the only way at this stage. Otherwise it will be packed meeting or feeling that meetings are packed. I think he role f the unaligned should be diplomacy. Getting the 2 big blocs to work together. Persuading people to make the necessary concessions that are needed.
      If I were hostile to the project (and there are people like that) I would work to increase animosity. I would encourage solo runs by component groups. I would add to any venom that is around the place.
      We should be aware that Sinn Fein are making the running as the national opposition to the troika government. The ULA is a long way behind.There is a mountain to be climbed.

      Jim Monaghan

      Apr 20, 2012 at 10:38 am

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