Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

Cedar Lounge Blog Response to People Before Profit Pamphlet : “The case for a left government / Getting rid of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.”

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The Cedar Lounge Blog publishes a very good assessment of a recent People Before Profit Pamphlet. Source :

Everyone on the Irish Left needs to keep the focus on supporting left wing election candidates who rule out coalition with the right in all circumstances. On this key point, People Before Profit is correct.

Predicting a general election result almost two years from now is unwise. The current Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael/ Green Party FFFGGG coalition can remain in office until February 2025. These three parties will not voluntarily cut and run unless at least one of them is sure they will benefit from a fresh general election. Could the government fall due to external pressures? That’s possible. At the moment one serious crisis follows another. The latest arises from a government decision making it easier for landlords to evict tenants.

I recommend people to read the Irish Election Projections Blog, which is very well written, respects the stats, and is sympathetic to the left. These surveys say that, if a poll is held tomorrow, Sinn Féin will be the single largest party; the FFFGGG coalition will be returned (possibly minus the Greens); the PBP et al will be under pressure, but will probably have the same number of seats they have now – perhaps a bit less. The most recent poll suggests that the Social Democrats have leapt forward from the rest of the small party pack : 9 per cent versus the 3-4 cent group (Labour, Greens, Solidarity-PBP). It is possible this is a new data trend. It is more likely, in my opinion, this single poll result is generated by positive publicity surrounding news of a new Social Democrat leader, Holly Cairns TD from Cork South-West. Time will tell.

John Meehan March 8 2023

RTÉ had a piece on left-wing unity and how calls for same had ‘caused division’. This on foot of the following:

It was a particularly bad week to talk about left-wing unity, given that various left-wing parties were at each other’s throats.

Nonetheless, People Before Profit published a document on Thursday entitled: “The case for a left government / Getting rid of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.”

The 29-page pamphlet contained a curious claim that wealthy people may “use their control over the media to turn a population against a left government”.

That’s not that curious a claim. Anyone who looked at various pieces in the press here or in the UK will have seen how even very mild and moderate left programmes had been subjected to swingeing criticism. So one could reasonably envisage that in the event of such a government being elected one would see worse. 

Perhaps a little more curious was the idea as articulated in the Independent:

People Before Profit is standing over a claim that reactionary forces in Ireland will stage a coup if a left-wing government is elected.

An official party document outlining the case for such a government warns its leader could suffer the same fate as Salvador Allende of Chile, who died of gunshot wounds amid explosions as military forces backed by the CIA assaulted the presidential palace in Santiago half a century ago.

Nobody at the launch took responsibility for claims that the rich will “will use far-right and fascist gangs” to divide the population, and “in the very final analysis, they will deploy the police and the army to move against [the] elected left-wing government”.

Kieran Allen, a sociology professor at UCD and People Before Profit’s ideologue, and Gerry Carroll, a PBP MLA from Belfast, agreed that such violent reaction from the wealthy was a “possibility”.

Richard Boyd Barrett TD said, however, it was “almost a racing certainty” that there would be a destructive backlash from wealthy interests.

Well it’s possible. But is it likely?

Chile and Ireland have had two very different and distinct historical experiences and they are, obviously, in very different parts of the world. The radicalism of Allende’s government is not quite what is on offer at the next Irish election or even the one after that or as best as can be judged the one after that again, but then Chile in the early 1970s was very different to Ireland then, let alone now. And the respective role of the government, the Defence Forces, the political and class structures are so complex and different that making the comparison sounds, well, a little implausible.

Speaking of implausible, isn’t it implausible that a Sinn Féin led coalition (or even a Sinn Féin supported government) as PBP contends they might offer a confidence and supply arrangement, would be brought down by a military coup? After all, this is the same Sinn Féin which PBP itself considers insufficiently left wing. Or to quote them:

While pledging to back Ms McDonald in a Dáil vote for Taoiseach – provided she rules out governing with the two Civil War parties – PBP says that “if Sinn Féin is adopting a moderate left strategy now, the chances are that it will succumb to capitalist pressure when in government.”

PBP criticised Sinn Féin’s economic and social policies in the North and states: “Sinn Féin’s response is to sit tight and avoid taking overly radical stances. It presents itself as a party of government in waiting – and, while promising change, wants to reassure that it will not be too radical.”

Yet even that won’t assuage the far-right and the Irish Army, etc, or so it appears. 

“Even the prospect of a Sinn Féin-led government has led to a barrage of propaganda from the Irish Independent, the Irish Times and RTÉ against the party. It will not even stop there,” the document states.

The party goes on to claim that “the wealthy” will use “far-right and fascist gangs who use a spurious radical rhetoric to divert anger on to social scapegoats such as migrants, gay, or trans people” and that in the final analysis, “they will deploy the police and the Army to move against elected left-wing governments.”

But if SF can only deliver a ‘moderate left strategy’, then why support it in the first place? That’s not an outright contradiction but does make any trust or political capital placed on the side of SF is so contingent that one has to wonder why one would bother? Or indeed why would the right bother to take it down given that there have been moderate left parties in power in Britain, Germany, France, Spain, etc, and continue to be. The current government in Spain is composed of social democrats and the further left and that’s a state considerably more prone to coup than our fair isle.

Now there’s half an argument that the idea of SF in government might be a step too far for some. But that’s not about their leftism as much as their history. Yet even that seems overstated. And read on for why all this feels a bit abstract.

Anyhow this proposal comes from a position of weakness one feels. After all this is a political universe where SOL-PBP have been consistent polling at the lowest end of their possible range. Whereas even the LP and GP are managing to maintain numbers that back in the day the WP would have been quite happy with. Let’s not talk of the suddenly revivified Social Democrats whose numbers are stratospheric under their new leader, though the next number of polls will be useful as a means of judging how temporary or otherwise that phenomenon is. 

RTÉ perhaps zones in on part of the rhetoric used:

Then again, it did serve one purpose: it highlighted that they and Solidarity are opposed to working with Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil under any circumstances – unlike other parties.

That’s makes considerable sense. At a point like this they need to raise their profile, particularly in the face of the SD revival which does provide a certain sort of threat. 

People Before Profit also has a fallback position: to vote for Mary Lou McDonald as Taoiseach and support a Sinn Féin led-government in a form of “confidence and supply” arrangement.

It’s important to also note that Sinn Féin, the Greens, Labour, the Social Democrats and Aontú have all said they’re open to talks after any general election.

So this is, in essence, a flag-waving exercise by PBP – and few would begrudge them that. 

But there’s another wrinkle to this, quite apart from pre-election profile raising.

Projections (and they are far from robust) suggest that Sinn Féin is a long way from having the support for bringing it in to be in government. That is unless Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael choose to enter government with it. But why would they? They have found working together reasonably congenial, not least because their numbers are so close. Now it might be different were one or other to see a sudden shift downwards in the numbers of TDs they return. I wonder how Fianna Fáil would feel as the minor partner in a coalition where the other party had say fifteen or twenty more TDs. But that glum prospect has yet to occur. This projection suggests both parties in or around the mid-30s. Hardly stellar compared to yesteryear (at least for FF) but could be worse. 

The point being that, as noted on here many times, there’s no guarantee that Sinn Féin is strolling toward government.

Irish Election Projections :

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