Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

Archive for the ‘Socialist Workers’ Party’ Category

‘”The ULA badly needs a ‘third force’…”

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There has been little enough feedback on the 24th January article Where to now for the ULA? by Eddie Conlon and Brendan Young. But better quality than quantity. The quality of this response from John Cane prompted Tomás to invite it up as a guest post. Tomás would not use all the terminology, like “democratic centralism” or “Leninist”, in the same way, but let’s not quibble.


It seems to me from your analysis that both the SWP and the SP have proved incapable of changing their spots – and that they are not going to anytime soon. They are both irredeemable “vanguardist” groups and thus must always put “party-building” first.

I would think this is a major problem for the “non-aligned” groups and individuals in ULA due to the combined weight of the SWP and SP in the organisation (though, of course, I understand that they rarely operate in concert). Frankly, I don’t see any chance of progressing the ULA “project” (of establishing a viable “revolutionary/reformist” grouping in Ireland, as I understand it) as long as it is being driven by the politics of either or both of these “vanguard” revolutionary groups.

The ULA badly needs a “third force” to counteract and challenge the SWP and SP. This can, surely, only come from organising the “non-aligned” groups and individuals on a separate basis within the ULA, to pursue separate goals (when necessary), by separate means (when necessary) – all within the ULA framework, of course. It’s a good step forward to see a separate meeting for the “non-aligned” at your forthcoming conference.

In my opinion, the sooner a new “third force” begins to define itself the better. It should have a name (how about Independent Left?). It should agree on why it thinks it needs to be separate (the rejection of “vanguardism”?; the rejection of “democratic centralism”? ; the rejection of “revolutionism”?). It should decide how inclusive it wants to be (surely very inclusive i.e. anyone not in “parties” or groups espousing the above).

The new grouping (“tendency”?) would, I think, only be able to challenge the SWP and SP (never mind supersede them) if it actively seeks to become a pole of attraction both to those inside the current ULA (i.e. all “non-aligned” and disillusioned SWP and SP members) and, critically, lefties of all stripes outside the current ULA (i.e. disillusioned LP members, groups like Plan B and Occupy, and local-based organisations).

One specific problem in establishing “Independent Left” is, perhaps, the existence of PBPA (especially the “Crumlin group”). It seems to me that there is no point to the PBPA as it stands now. If it is effectively controlled by the SWP then all “non-aligned” groups (including “Crumlin”) and individuals should simply leave it and join Independent Left if they wish to.

All going well (!), the great majority of currently “non-aligned” groups and individuals in ULA would see the value of setting up and working within an “Independent Left”-style “tendency” along the lines above and, this accomplished, it’s hard to see how SWP or SP would have any other option than to accept it as a “third force”. If they didn’t, they would have to fold the whole ULA “project” (and be seen to be doing so). “Independent Left” is, after all, an entirely legitimate exercise in left political plurality (in contrast to the “democratic centralism” of both SWP and SP). As such, its establishment, if conducted openly and fraternally, would be hard for even Leninists and Trotskyists to oppose.

If you could get away with all this, then, I would think you’ll be well on the way to “building” a viable “revolutionary/reformist” left ULA grouping in Ireland (though not a “new mass workers party”, I think!). Perhaps something along the lines of the old SLP and other “Two-and-a Half International” groupings, with “Independent Left” providing the essential (and hopefully, before long, dominant) broad, pluralist, non-vanguardist input.

And even if you don’t get away with it, well, would you be any worse off? There’s no future much for the ULA “project” as it stands now.

22nd February 2012

Written by tomasoflatharta

Mar 7, 2012 at 12:36 am

Kubla heard from far: the problem with the ULA is everbody else

with 10 comments

There seems be more than one occasion (Waterloo, the Peninsular War) for the claim that the Duke of Wellington said the following as he inspected a section of his troops:

“I don’t know what they’ll do to the enemy; but, by God, they frighten me.”

Below is an internal bulletin of the Socialist Workers Party dated 6th February 2012. It is instructive in many ways. It is also very frightening. How is the ULA to survive this, or if the SWP acts on this?

*SWP Bulletin  06.02.12*  Read the rest of this entry »

United Left Alliance TD’s, part of the Dáil Technical Group – Irish Times Review

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For a change, the Irish Times report is fair to the left-wing outsiders.

Debate occurred on this site after the February 25 2011 General Election on whether Luke “Ming” Flanagan could be grouped within the left – we presume that argument is over now.  Ming has sided with the United Left Alliance comrades on a variety of key issues since his election in Roscommon-South Leitrim – is the west awake for the left?

The article is discussed on the Cedar Lounge Revolution Site :

Ming Flanagan gets this mention: we are told the Independent TD for Roscommon-South Leitrim who has in the past proudly advertised his fondness for the odd cannabis joint

orbits in this area, but is less clearly explicitly left-wing and therefore perhaps more sensibly regarded as being a sometime fellow traveller on some but not all issues.

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From Splintered Sunrise: On the historical experiences of IS and SWP with factions

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Written by tomasoflatharta

Dec 31, 2011 at 3:09 pm