Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

The old world is dying and the new world struggles to be born – call the midwife – Ireland needs a new left party

with 2 comments

This is an excellent post from the Cedar Lounge Revolution Blog.

The author is a former member of the Socialist Party, who highlights the need for an organisation which is internally democratic and is not ultimately controlled by privileged components which make all the decisive decisions – in other words a significant departure from the SWN controlled PBP and the SP controlled Solidarity.

Here is the introduction :

Thanks to Shane Faherty for allowing this to be reposted. Much appreciated. Originally posted on

Modern Distortions Culture, society and history, at the beginning of the month.


In keeping with the spirit of our times, on Tuesday I watched an online ‘meeting’ with Paul Murphy TD of RISE (formerly of the Socialist Party/ Solidarity) and Brid Smith TD of People Before Profit. It was a virtual version of the public meeting that most of us on the left know, but may not necessarily love.

Paul Murphy TD RISE – Leaflet, General Election, February 8 2020

Campaigners supporting Paul Murphy TD, February 8 2020 General Election

I wanted to know whether the new party being mooted was a runner and what form it would take. Paul’s organisation RISE have been making overtures to members of the Green Party who may be disillusioned with their party entering government with Fianna Fail and Fine Gael. He argues that they should leave the party and, along with other groups on the left, launch a new party. Similarly, People Before Profit released a statement proposing the formation of a new left party. Another small group called Independent Left, many of whom are former PBP members, released a statement welcoming the move. The elephant in the room in all of this is that Rise and People Before Profit are part of a parliamentary grouping called Solidarity – People Before Profit. Solidarity have said nothing on all of this. Solidarity and People Before Profit operate a marriage of convenience for electoral and parliamentary purposes. Until last year, they were evenly matched electorally, with 3 TDS and just under 30 councillors each, based on significant gains made at the previous local and general elections. The local elections of 2019 reduced the numbers of councillors for each party. There were gains for Sinn Fein and the Greens, and this was an indication of things to come.

This analysis hits the nail on the head

A new left party must put forward a clear and unified message and fight a unified campaign. The arguments on minor points of policy can be had inside the party. With open and fair debates and democratic processes we can hash these topics out and come to agreement on a clear programme. The United Left Alliance of 2011 was a missed opportunity for the left but there are lessons to learn. There were no democratic structures and members of the ULA who were not members of the component organisations of the steering committee had no say in the organisation. Clare Daly’s gravitation away from the ULA and the Socialist Party opened up fissures for which there was no recourse for a resolution. Any new party has to have new structures and new leadership. If the Socialist Party don’t join the new party it will just be an expanded PBP and this would not be ideal. This could lead to its failure or alternately, it could be a roaring success and the Socialist Party will find themselves eclipsed.

The Socialist Party is right that a new party is meaningless if it only comprises the usual suspects. A new party must attract thousands of new members to be successful. But in order to do this it must first exist. The Socialist Party must engage with PBP and Rise and any other groups or individuals to launch a party that is pluralistic but socialist and secular. That sets out a clear anticapitalist programme for elections but also engages in grass roots struggles. That fights against racism, sexism homophobia, transphobia and all forms of bigotry. That fights against the destruction of our planet for the sake of profit. That situates all of these struggles in the fight for socialism. There is a definite space here for Solidarity – PBP to launch a new party and potentially win thousands of supporters. They have an advantage in that they are already in the public view and have been the clearest voices advocating socialism in Ireland. A party launched by Solidarity – PBP  could win back former members of its constituent organisations, defectors from the Greens or Sinn Fein, perhaps some left wing independents and their supporters, those who already identify as left but are not in any party and more importantly young people and workers who have never been politically active as they never felt any party represented them.

There are alternatives :

An update : a comment from a Cedar Lounge Revolution Correspondent :

What he’s arguing for is a small “s” socialist party which various currents and groups would be part of and would maintain their own organisation within. So not a merger into one homogenous party but something more closely bound than the current Dail alliance. Other people (and groups) would be able to join it and have the same democratic input as anyone else. What he’s talking about structurally, if not necessary politically, is I think something like the Portuguese Left Bloc or the Danish Red Green Alliance, a membership party with organised platforms/factions/whatever inside it.

I’d also like to see something like that. I don’t think a homogenous party is possible or desirable given where we are starting from. But I do think that a more unitary structure than currently exists is possible and would have big advantages. If it had a reasonably functioning democracy and a certain critical mass, it could pull in people from a wider swathe of the further left than the three S-PBP components.

I also don’t think that international Trotskyist divisions are the main barrier, or even a significant one at all. The barriers are domestic. To be blunt about it, I can’t see the SP being at all interested. In their absence, PBP, already the largest group, would necessarily be hegemonic. Can others accept that? Can PBP open up enough to make that acceptable?

2 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: