Where do we go from here?
On 30th September, at a time billions of new cuts are being put together in a new austerity budget, a United Left Alliance branch convention held a crisis meeting on Mick Wallace. The main discussion centered around a Socialist Party proposal to denounce Clare Daly - a witchunt proposal that would effectively explode the loose alliance that the ULA has become.
The result was utter confusion. The majority opposed the Socialist Party resolution but most had already joined in the hysterical condemnation of Wallace. Not only that, they had joined in the witchunt to force Wallace out of the Household Charge campaign and effectively split the campaign by condemning local committees who worked with Wallace.
The politics of moralism were in conflict with the politics of opportunism. No-one wanted to rethink their position, but they realized that a collapse of the ULA would represent a humiliating failure for the socialist movement. The circle was squared by interrogating a delegation who had met Daly and taking from the report assurances that she would not politically defend Wallace. The SP withdrew their motion, reserving the right to return to the issue. Luckily an even more reactionary motion from one of their supporters calling for a separate socialist organization in the North was not reached.
No vote was taken. There is really no way to vote that the SP or SWP act in any particular way so all outcomes are behind the scenes compromises. The result of the debacle is likely to be a tenuous alliance of the SP and SWP, with the majority of the undifferentiated non-aligned grouping gathering around Clare Daly and Joan Collins. Even though it was well known that Tipperary Workers and Unemployed Action Group were with-drawing from the ULA the issue was not discussed - they carried moralism to a new level by claiming that the ULA had not been firm enough in condemning Wallace!
This Rube Goldberg apparatus then settled down to discuss the threat posed by the upcoming budget. The consensus was that we would do what we did last year - unite behind the union leaderships, call for reform, protest the harsh effects of the budget and ignore the really that the union bureaucracy were helping draw up the proposals and are part of the machinery that implements the austerity.
The bankruptcy of these policies can be seen in the Household Charge campaign. It has been split over Wallace. It has finally outlined a strategy - disruption of the courts. That's a strategy for groundhog day, learning nothing from the failure of the Bins Charge campaign a decade ago. The attempt by Clare Council to link 3rd level grants threw the campaign into a tizzy and shows its ossification.
The reality is that the campaign is being kept firmly in the community. Any attempt to address organised workers would be unable to ignore the fact that ICTU have already agreed water privatization and charging.
What's the alternative?
Our movement should put forward a socialist critique of the coming budget and urge utter rejection.
We should urge the self-organization of the working class and build a grassroots movement willing to take on collaborators in the union leaderships.
We should unite in action with all willing to fight back without trying to paper over differences..
An Irish movement must have a conversation with our comrades across Europe. The offensive is Europe wide and the response must be also.
A new socialist resistance is an absolute necessity. The problem is that the majority of ULA militants donít see that is a political issue. They proclaim unity as an aim in itself or democracy as some sort of magic wand, while holding fast to a tired reformism. The reality is that it is only by organizing around a revolutionary alternative that we can unite militants in the ULA, appeal to individual members of the SP and SWP and reach out into the ranks of the working class.