Return to Left Unity menu


Socilaist Democracy's proposed amendmnets to the Draft Socialist Alliance Programme


Our alternative proposals are not definitive and are obviously open to reformulation in more ‘popular’ style providing the underlying political point is still made. Neither do we reject everything in the draft, much of which is good. A lot of what we propose is only in addition to what is already there.


General Elections are primarily about electing a new government that will run the country.  Any socialist programme must have its own statement about the sort of government we want and are fighting for.  A list of policies we support must be headed by the sort of government we want to implement them, even if we are not yet able to hope to form such a government.  Such a statement is the only way to logically frame our view of other parties, possible coalitions and preference votes.  Our demand should be:

For a Workers Government! For a Government that defends the interests of the working class, small farmers and oppressed in society.  No coalition or support to the right wing capitalist parties.  Vote for working class parties.

The draft programme nowhere says that we want a socialist society, but only ‘a share of the Celtic Tiger’ that, in another section, we say will not last.  The programme should say:

The Socialist Alliance fights for a new 32 County Socialist Ireland.

Social Partnership

The key argument socialists have to make is that the interests of the working class and the capitalist class are irreconcilable and that any programme that pretends they can be accommodated is inevitably a means of subordinating the former to the latter.  The most immediate roadblock to winning such an understanding at present is the shackling of the trade union movement to social partnership.  Crystal clear opposition to partnership is essential.  The proposed programme goes only some way to doing this.

For example: we are unhappy about the demand - Share the Wealth.  Lets be honest, as socialists the amount of wealth we want to share with the capitalist class is, well, nothing!  Remember Connolly’s phrase –we only want the earth!  We don’t have to put forward a revolutionary programme in order to avoid talk of sharing the fruits of our labour with the capitalists.  This is the ideology of partnership but with an argument about the precise shares to each class.  We should start from the needs of the working class not what is ‘fair’ between workers and bosses. The Socialist Alliance should be:

Against Social Partnership.  Break the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness.  Full support and solidarity to workers demanding a decent wage.  For automatic increases to compensate for inflation.  For a democratic trade union movement with a militant leadership drawn from, and accountable to, rank and file workers.  Scrap the Industrial Relations Act and all anti-union legislation.  Tax the multinationals and Big business.


We are also unhappy about the demands around corruption.  It is absolutely correct to point to the double standards and hypocrisy of the state and politicians reflected in the way the establishment has got away with corruption.  (Everyone will agree the seven days for Liam Lawlor is pathetic)  However it is quite a different matter to demand the jailing of corrupt politicians and possibly make this the central demand of a campaign.  We point out the hypocrisy and do not oppose jailing them.  If asked we will say they should be put in jail but this isn’t the point.  It is not the point of a programme.  As socialists our main focus should not be demanding the capitalist state solve corruption (because this is the point, not mere revenge).  Our argument should be that only the working class can solve it.  The socialist programme is a call for the working class to take action not the capitalist state.  Where the latter makes reforms it is only because of pressure from working class action.  This action must go from moral outrage to political attack.

The dangers of demanding strong state action on ‘law and order’ can be seen in the demands of the draft programme.  What increased state powers are required to ‘immediately’ send corrupt politicians to jail?  The Criminal Assets Bureau should be scrapped.  It is an attack on civil liberties that requires the accused to prove innocence rather than the state proving guilt.  We should not be demanding that it use its powers more forcefully.  We should be warning the working class that draconian legislation will never be used impartially and will more often be used against it rather than the ruling elites.  The Alliance should demand

Nationalisation of the Banks under workers control.  Open the books of all companies and Agencies implicated in corruption. For a workers investigation of corruption – expose all the liars and crooks!.  Nationalisation under workers control of all firms found guilty of defrauding the Irish people.

European Union

The central political and economic project of the Irish capitalist class for decades has been insertion in the European Union yet the draft programme doesn’t mention it!  Social partnership, privatisation, taxation etc etc are all justified and implemented through appeal to the requirements of EU laws.  The programme must make the working class aware of the socialist view.  We should

Oppose the Europe of big business and privatisation.  The Socialist Alliance opposes the austerity programme of the Maastricht Treaty and EMU.  For a referendum on the Nice Treaty.  For immediate withdrawal from the Partnership for Peace.  No to NATO and no illusions in the UN.  For an international policy of solidarity with the poor and oppressed around the world.

Health & Education

On the questions of Health and education we must demand

Complete separation of Church and State.  End Church influence and control of hospitals and schools.  For workers and parents control of education with a voice for young people in their own education.  For health workers control of hospitals and care services with a voice for patients in the shape and delivery of services.


On the question of women and abortion we must demand that:

Women must control their own bodies and fertility. Not the Church and not the State.  For a woman’s right to choose.


On the question of racism we cannot limit our programme to the right to asylum which is seen to be restricted to those fleeing only political oppression but not economic exploitation. We should:

Oppose all racist immigration controls.

The North of Ireland

The central issue in politics in the north and in the south, in so far as the north is discussed, is the Good Friday Agreement.  It is the central political concern of all workers in the north.  International capitalism from Clinton to Blair and the Irish capitalist class and its politicians have shouted their support for it.  The international speculator, George Soros, gave tens of thousands to the Yes Referendum campaign.  Larry Goodman’s company gave £20,000, Irish Life gave £75,000 and Marathon International Petroleum gave 10,000.  Yet the draft programme doesn’t say just as clearly whether socialists support or oppose it!  Is it a promise unfulfilled?  In which case we should call for its full implementation.  Or is it a threat to be opposed?

The draft calls for the disarming of the RUC.  Does this mean we don’t call for disbandment of the RUC?  That we don’t think this is an issue?  Failure to call for disbandment would put socialists to the right of the Patten report from the ex-Tory minister, which at least promised a new police force.

The Socialist Alliance should state clearly that the GFA is an imperialist settlement designed to strengthen imperialist control, harden partition and sectarianism and entrench the division of the working class.  The Alliance should demand:

  • Oppose the Good Friday Agreement.
  • Self-determination for the Irish people.  No to the Unionist Veto.
  • Smash the new Stormont.  Oppose the right wing policies coming from the sectarian Assembly.  For complete British withdrawal from Ireland. Disband the RUC.  Scrap all repressive legislation.
  • For a real democratic alternative – an all-Ireland Constituent Assembly.
  • Build Workers Unity for a Socialist Republic.

This is the only democratic alternative to imperialism’s plans.  If comrades oppose these demands they should say what the political alternative is that is more democratic. It they try to avoid the question of democracy by talking about ‘socialism’ we say there is no socialism without democracy.  If they reply by talking about ‘class politics’ we say that democracy is a class question.  To surrender democracy is to surrender socialism.

The comrades might say that the only hope to address protestant workers is to avoid political questions.  What then is the point of socialism if we are to avoid politics?  We wouldn’t need political organisations but only good trade unions.  The Socialist Alliance would have abandoned politics and imported the unionist veto into its own programme.  All without one unionist having opened their mouth!

The imperialist division of the working class is accepted under the banner of unity.  Division of workers in the north from the south is unchallenged while the unity of protestant and catholic is upheld.  We must understand that no particular division can be addressed unless we put forward the complete unity of the working class.  Protestant and catholic unity in the north can only be effectively addressed in the context of achieving the unity of the whole Irish working class.  That’s why we must oppose partition.

As it stands the current programme on the national question doesn’t actually deal with it.  In the south this will be a giant hole in the programme of any Alliance.  An Alliance in the north on this programme would simply be irrelevant if not reactionary because of the partitionist conclusions that could easily be drawn from it.

As we have said the method behind the draft programme is one of economism and no clearer example of avoiding politics is contained in the draft.  We must learn that the working class is not an economic class suffering exploitation that must have its economic struggles politicised to achieve socialism.  This is the very definition of economism.  The working class must first and foremost be seen as a political class that must train itself to become the ruling class of a new society.  As Lenin said, every political issue facing every class must be addressed.  The tribune of the people not the trade union secretary must be our model.  Talk of ‘class’ politics that avoids politics is not socialism but mere militant trade unionism.



Return to top of page