Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

ULA Conference: ‘Co-operation not competition’ – Statement from Paddy Healy and the South Tipperary Workers and Unemployed Action Group

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The statement below was circulated by Paddy Healy this week and is, Tomás presumes,  the position of the South Tipperary Workers and Unemployed Action Group going into the conference on Saturday.

It’s good to see the WUAG engaging like this with the ULA at large and doubly so given the content of the statement.

Huge Obligation and Opportunity for ULA as Sinn Féin reiterates its willingness to enter Coalition Government with any Party

Paddy Healy

Because of developments in the national and international economic and political crisis there is a huge obligation on ULA and on its components to make significant progress in its mission to politically reorganise the Irish working class in its own interest. The Irish Labour Party is once again in coalition government with a right-wing party. On this occasion the government is not just failing to introduce improvements for workers but is openly attacking all the gains made by workers over decades. If ULA can rise to its historic task the Labour Party could be wiped out and above all fail to recover from this period in government.

Following the recent rise of Sinn Féin in the polls, the party leader reiterated its willingness to enter coalition with any political party. This guarantees that sooner or later that party will go into oblivion sharing the same fate as Clann Na Poblachta and the Workers Party. But much damage could be done before then. The commitment of Sinn Féin to coalition confirms that it is no longer a revolutionary nationalist party.

The political cornerstone of the ULA is its opposition in principle to coalition with capitalist parties. This provides a basis on which the working class can re-establish the 32-county Labour Party first formed at the TUC Congress in Clonmel in 1912.

The time available to make progress is short. It is now widely agreed that Ireland will be unable to borrow on the open market at the conclusion of the EU/IMF programme. This is less than two years away. This means that the EU/IMF will be able to come forward with new economic and political demands as a pre-condition for further lending. Already the EU/IMF has removed an elected government in Greece and replaced it with a “national government”. The Italian prime minister has been replaced by a technocrat. Even if the Irish fiscal deficit were down to 3% as planned at the end of the programme, due to the continuing debt the state would be required to pay off holders of sovereign bonds periodically and to re-borrow (rolling over debt). In addition the Fiscal Compact requires the structural deficit to be reduced to 0.5% requiring budgetary  adjustments of a further 5.7 billion  euro. Subsequently the  debt to GDP ratio must be driven down to 60% of GDP from 120% over a period of years.

Indeed the above may be a relatively benign scenario. Economists such as Nobel laureate, Paul Krugman has described the EU austerity policy as “suicidal” and some are predicting an early end to the Euro currency.

In any event a vicious austerity regime will be demanded. In order to enforce such a regime new political arrangements will be demanded. Government policy will be seen to have failed. As in Greece, the Troika are likely to demand that the opposition sign up to the new austerity programme before any further money is lent. Pressure will probably come not only on Fianna Fáil but also on Sinn Féin to enter government.

Our opposition to coalition in principle will be a protection for the ULA.

There will be major opportunities for ULA in such a situation. We must be well organised and ready and we must have extensive enough support to give us credibility. Unity, agreement and co-operation between the founding components and the unaligned members must be sought at all times.

The priority in the next period, therefore, must be to win whole sections of workers to the ULA. This must take priority over recruiting individuals to any of the three founding components. Co-operation not competitive recruitment must be the order of the day.

The Workers and Unemployed Action Group is not a small exclusive political organisation . It is a mass movement of workers confined to a small area. It focuses on breaking thousands of workers from social democracy and from Fianna Fail. Seamus Healy was the only ULA TD who was first elected in the General Election and South Tipperary is the only constituency where the Labour Party comes second to the ULA. This is the process which must be repeated throughout the country. 

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