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Suicide of the socialists

One can only look on in amazement as sections of the Irish Socialist movement self-destruct over its attitude to one individual, independent TD Mick Wallace. As with many other things, the appearance is not the reality. The frantic denunciation of Wallace, and the equally frantic adulation of him only a few months ago, represent very deep and systemic weaknesses that must be overcome if a working class resistance is to be built. 

Wallace is a contractor who was bankrupted in the credit crunch and was elected to the Dail on a programme of opposition to the bank bailout and the austerity. He was a high-profile thorn in the side of the government and so frequently on the platform of the United Left Alliance that many people thought he was a member. 

All this changed when it was revealed that Wallace had avoided the payment of the full VAT tax due for his building construction business. Wallace owned up to the fiddle and promised repayment., claiming that he was trying to save his business. The capitalist press went on a full-blooded witchunt and the socialist press quickly fell into line behind the pack. 

In the household charge movement the Socialist party and Socialist Workers party moved not only expel Wallace, but to expel anyone who associated with him or invited him on a platform. 

The Socialist party saw the resignation of one of their two TDs, Clare Daly, because of an association with Wallace. She said she would now concentrate on building the United Left Alliance - the only vehicle left to her that can justify a role in the Dail. The SP immediately responded by indicating that her presence in the ULA would cause "difficulties". 

So what's going on? The capitalists who are pursuing Wallace are the crooks who stole the country. Ireland has a long tradition of political corruption and the perpetrators are rarely punished in the courts or at the ballot box. Why the Left's anxiety to throw itself at the head of the mob baying for blood? 

A clue was provided by a Joe Higgins of the Socialist Party. His party was forced to act because of its commitment to "taxation justice". The same liberal phrase was used in the Household Charge debate. The ULA's call to make the rich pay is a central slogan. 

This is moralism disguised as policy. Progressive tax policies cannot provide the mountains of money required as long as the bank bail-out continues and would not be implemented short of a socialist government which would be taking control of key resources - not taxing them 

Another issue is the unremitting electoral and parliamentary focus of left strategy. The Wallace case is hardly a burning issue in the working class. It is in the columns of the right wing press that dominate the Dail. 

The left parties in the Dail search for respectability and fly into a panic under press attacks. Questions about the Socialist Party's Dail expenses had led to hysteria similar to the hysteria over Mick Wallace. They hope to gradually increase the number of Dail seats, a perspective that only makes sense through the lens of a reformism that envisages the economic crisis being resolved by an improved capitalism. Behind it all is an unremitting sectarianism that stands ready at any time to sacrifice the broader movement to their own interests. 

The basic fact is that the idea that Dail seats build movements is completely mistaken and leads to the sort of self-defeating opportunism we see today. Much larger movements that were disciplined parties have been torn apart by the pressures of a bourgeois parliament and a rapacious media. 

The starting point for a socialist resistance is real principled unity around the needs of the working class and the tasks we urge it to undertake in its own defense. Instead we get playacting unity between small groups based on their own needs, in a frame-work work where capitalist resurgence is regarded as inevitable and workers revolution as fantasy. 


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