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From people power to smiley face: the socialists and the elections

4 May 2019

Does anyone remember “People Power”? Different versions of the term were used by the left groups to justify a turn towards electioneering. They understood that the claim that the Dail and the councils would act to defend workers was in conflict with socialist understanding of capitalist society. However electoral office could be used as a platform to organise action by the workers.

So, as Irish local elections approach, what is the action the socialist groups are calling for?

In Dublin the call is simply to vote. The lampposts are decorated with smiling faces without slogans. Today a left presence in the council appears enough to bring change.

This is nonsense. First off the city council does not have any power. Manager Owen Keegan and his numerous assistants run the show and are free to ignore the councillors. None of the candidates are running on a campaign for the cities and towns to be under democratic control of elected councils rather than unelected managers. 50 years after the civil rights movement for democratic rights the left are happy to participate in a charade in which the electors votes change nothing and the candidates are happy to play pretend games in an undemocratic fraud.

Dublin city is festooned with posters that say nothing whatsoever other than I'm the one to look after your interests and a smiley portrait.

It's not as if nothing vital and important is happening to the working classes and youth of the cities. Dublin is being asset stripped as is the rest of the country. The water and sewage infrastructure was stolen literally from under our feet and put under the control of an unaccountable quango "Irish water " and we are told we won the water charge battle. The land banks and housing assets are handed over to vulture funds. Dublin bus and bus eireann are put under the control of another privatisation quango, Transport for Ireland, without any outcry from our "candidates".

To top it all off the nurses, after a hugely popular dispute, are being worn down by their union leaders into accepting a deal which answered none of their demands for a functioning health system. To add insult to injury a private company, the VHI, has been able to to trash any concept of medical or patient care ethics by introducing a system of penalties for patients who are not subscribers to their insurance plans and offering cancer drugs for private patients only.

It's not as if there are not huge issues facing the working class, it's just that they are ignored in the elections in favour of banalities about who is a hard working local councillor basically doing clientelist activity.

There is a basic issue for the working class in our towns and cities and that is on the question of democracy. Socialists should be demanding that the vote be democratic, that the elected council have control over the city management rather than the other way round and the election itself be a demand for democratic control by and for the citizens. Without this left candidates are simply seeking auditions for a part in a theatrical production; “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”

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