Goodbye Right 2 Change - Hello Right to Change
Union 'Left' bureaucracy surrenders
2 September 2010
The announcement that Joan Collins was parting company with 'Independents for Change' and setting up a new party is hardly surprising news when seen against the background of the disintegration of the CWI and PbP. The reformist orientation of both organisations has plainly resulted in a descent into turmoil and it is hardly surprising that elected representatives with a political inheritance from these groups should rush to reposition themselves on the field of parliamentary reformism.
Collins was first elected to the Dail in 2011 for People before Profit, having previously been a councillor for the short lived ULA, itself a masterclass in the terrible twins of opportunism and sectarianism. Following the fruitless experience of her first term in the Dail, during which the assault on the working class to pay for the banking crash fully evolved, the 2016 election saw her reinvent herself as a member of Independents for Change. Four years later we have had the 2020 election which saw Sinn Fein take over 17,000 votes to Collins' 7,807 and Brid Smith's 9,547 for PbP.
After what has unsurprisingly registered as yet another four fruitless years of parliamentary 'tactics' the Independents for Change label, with Collins as the sole TD, is now being jettisoned in favour of the husk of the Right-2-Change brand. As the chances of a peaceful four years in the Dail look increasingly shaky the need to firm up the electoral machine's organisational base has become imperative. The next election will see Sinn Fein, long promoted as a candidate for a 'left' coalition government, running a second candidate and the pickings for left reformists that have delivered nothing resembling a reform in almost a decade may be slim.
There is no apparent variation between the two main socialist reformist groups on a programme of action for the working class, to the extent that neither of them has one, so the need of their epigones to politically rebrand themselves is of great importance if the accusation that it is personal ambition that is splitting the left vote is to be avoided. The new party announces the need to move beyond the 'politics of protest', worthy indeed, but move on to what? More parliamentarism and the creation of yet another electoralist machine? Or perhaps organised working class action in the workplace and the establishment of a workers programme of action? If indeed the differences are down to programmatic differences the world should know about them immediately but we are given the clue by the trade union left bureaucracy that 'moving beyond the politics of protest' does not mean organised working class action, it just means the official end of the protests!
No sooner had Joan rebranded as the Right to Change party than the union 'left' rushed to discard their old cloak. The leadership of the R2C unions very quickly dusted off their mailing list and dashed off a short note explaining that the R2C campaign was closing up shop, while announcing with pride that Joan Collins was part of the legacy of their previous efforts.
If this is the case it firstly begs the question of what Joan's time in the SP accounted for, surely the true source of her legacy, and also given their obvious satisfaction with that legacy why the union bureaucracy were not getting on board to build the 'broad front' they and their erstwhile reformist left allies had previously dreamed of?
Instead the activists got
an abrupt thank you and the clear impression that if anyone wanted to carry
on with the slightly altered 'RtoC' brand they were very much on their
own and that it was
absolutely nothing to do with the founding union bureaucracies. They were erasing the database!
If the new political party had any illusions that it was going to convert itself into a new version of the Labour party with the aid of the trade union 'left' it was very abruptly disabused of the notion. The new Right To Change political party describes itself as;
“... a policy platform which grew from the mass mobilisation of people during the successful Right2Water campaign. This mobilisation came about because progressive politicians, trade unions and community groups all worked closely together in opposition to unfair water charges. Right to Change believes that this example of solidarity and people power is the way forward for our society.” [emphasis added]Not so says the ex R2C union bureaucracy … leave us out of it!
The union bureaucracy's 'left wing' have officially called off the fight and are hunkering down, waiting for the advent of a 'left' government, obviously in the form of Sinn Fein, to cast them their fig leaf. Now they rush to put clear blue water between themselves and Joan's takeover of the husk of the R2C brand as they gravitate towards the party previously labelled as 'left' by all and sundry and are increasingly seen as the realistic choice for the left bureaucracy's 'people in parliament'.
Expect the same experience as in the North. Delegations to Stormont of ten to twenty union people with banners standing forlornly for photo-shoots as they lobbied the always 'sympathetic' Sinn Feiners, in government with the DUP, to do something! Anything! That strategy ended with thousands of lay-offs, health workers' pay cuts, welfare reform, a serious housing shortage, the ever present threat of the reintroduction of water charges and the complete demobilisation of trade union activity.
At the moment when evictions are coming on stream again, when vulture funds are meeting with the great and the good at Clifden golf soirees, when teachers and health workers levels of discontent over unsafe working conditions are brewing, when health privatisation is on stream, when meat plant workers are suffering regular covid outbreaks, in short when the attacks on the working class are accellerating this represents a symbolic wrapping up of even the pretense of opposition.
This moment of denouement was arrived at via the broad front strategy. Now the left reformists that swore by the efficacy of the 'broad' front and who once at least paid lip service to revolution, usually only in theoretical journals, are not mentioning the 'R' word at all and no amount of vague sounding promotional videos overlaid with soaring emotional soundtracks can make a silk purse out of the sow's lug of left parliamentary reformism as the effort to compete on the same reformist basis as Sinn Fein drags them inexorably rightwards.
Another surge in class struggle is building as plumbers and electricians gear up for industrial action over the attack on their pay agreements. The union bureaucrats plan the usual treatment; angry statement, 'indignant' acceptance of defeat, silence! The cynical goading of the workers about the size of the reserve army of unemployed builders has begun and the bureaucracy are already frantic for 'compromise'.
This corrupt and quaking government which is setting the new austerity agenda must fall! What is important is how this happens. It must face concerted working class action and revolutionaries will build by fighting for a programme of action and a united front to achieve that, by marching separately and striking together, by fighting for workers in action and openly and loudly addressing the working class over the heads of the compromisers who sell them out. That way it doesn't become a sectarian tussle to see which gets elected to the Dail for yet another four years, the new RtoC or PbP, it becomes about mass mobilisation.