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The Irish Sympathising Section and Our Relationship with the FI

Some questions

30 August 2022


We are writing to query our status with the Fourth International in the light of a series of events that have occurred since the end of 2021 and which seem to involve initiatives towards Ireland undertaken without any reference to ourselves as the sympathising section - a recurring problem over many decades.

You wrote to us at the end of June 2021 saying that you would meet with an international current of ex-CWI comrades in July.

You then wrote again  to say that you had met comrades on in July,  and  December, and  January 2022 and you then invited the comrades to participate as guests in the IEC, where they presented a perspective at variance with our own. The bureau's position has not been published and the position of the Irish group RISE had not been fully formulated at the time.

As we informed you then. We have no objection to inclusion of other currents in discussion. What we object to is exclusion. A series of discussions have taken place from which sections of the international have been excluded and where the nature of any political agreement has not been disclosed.

However, our questions were dismissed on the grounds that the discussion was between international tendencies therefore above our pay grade.

These were not the only activities

In December 2022 an appeal was published by Eric Toussaint:

"Eurozone countries’ debt to the ECB must be cancelled" it was signed by the Irish left alliance People before Profit and individually by their TDs. We were not contacted before the release of the document.

A large zoom conference on solidarity with a uprising in Kazakhstan with Paul Murphy TD as a major speaker was preceded by much excitement internationally in email traffic.  Again, we were not directly involved and were only included in the meeting discussion when we requested this. We had no objections to him being invited as a speaker.   More recently Michel Lowy spoke at a PbP conference again without our knowledge.

The above is not the beginning of a long complaint about rights and norms. What we want to look at is the politics of the bureau in relation to Ireland and more generally. There have been decades of disagreement, but we have never been able to pin down a clear position on your part.

Issues have been clarified recently. The international press has carried a series of articles supporting a left government in Ireland from PbP sources. One contribution went further, suggesting that a Sinn Fein government would be a progressive thing in itself. In at least one case our response to this argument was rejected - editors said we had not understood the document and then went on to provide a very detailed defence of it, but eventually carried a formal presentation of our policy.

To provide context: the Irish working class has been under consistent attack for decades. An anti-imperialist struggle based around British occupation has morphed into the former nationalist revolutionaries administering an imperialist settlement - a common outcome to peace processes.

Under the direction of a comprador capitalist class, the population of the Irish state paid almost half of the European banking debt following the 2008 credit crunch. The trade union leaders collaborated in a partnership agreement that reinforced austerity and the socialist groups decided to avoid confrontation with the union leaders and to concentrate on a parliamentary strategy. In the absence of a political alternative there has been a slow but inexorable decay of support for the major political parties and a consequent rise in Sinn Féin, despite their role in administration of a colonial settlement in the North.  They have not advanced any policies outside the neoliberal consensus and firmly restrict themselves to parliamentary activity.

One concern is the overall strategic orientation of the socialist groups, specifically RISE and the PbP alliance overall. Last year they outlined a project for a "left" government in Ireland led by Sinn Féin in alliance with the socialist groups in the Dáil and this proposal was carried without comment in the FI press.  PbP has now become much more cautious about this position given that Sinn Féin has ended opposition to the Special Criminal Court and to emergency legislation. However, a further argument has arisen, that Sinn Féin in government would be a progressive step in itself.

So overall a series of links have grown up between the bureau and the parliamentary left in Ireland. The consensus appears to favour a Sinn Féin "left" coalition and to be shifting towards simply supporting any Sinn Féin government.

In our view Sinn Féin is a bourgeois party, firmly allied with imperialism, with policies embedded in the financial and political constraints that this implies. The mass sentiment that may propel them into government is mistaken, born of desperation, and can only lead to demoralisation. The time to fight for resilience within the working class is now, by opposing both the trade union and Sinn Fein reformism and the parliamentary cretinism of the left.

There are of course arguments for a presence in a left unity project even if there are political differences and we would have thought that the bureau would have discussed this with us  if they had done so we would have registered certain difficulties.

By far the greatest problem arose when we met with Paul Murphy. It turns out that RISE will not discuss with us because of our gender critical views. We see this refusal as profoundly wrong and a complete break with the socialist tradition of debate. In addition, relations with PbP in Belfast are extremely bad. It is our belief that Gerry Carroll, the local MLA, has a reactionary position that downgrades the national question in favour of promoting the local colonial assembly as a pathway to socialism. Finally, we are very conscious of the growing parliamentary idiocy of PbP and absence of attempts at mobilisation.

We are aware that the general direction of the Irish left, stressing liberal feminism, gender identity and eco-socialism alongside electoralism and parliamentary reform, is in tune with a long history of broad leftism in the FI. The experiments invariably fail, but there is never a genuine balance sheet. The same process is about to take place in Ireland, with PbP perspectives foreseeing their parliamentary representation being decimated by a Sinn Féin surge in the polls and advocating a switch back to a youth and activist focus.

So, there are issues beyond Ireland. The anti-materialist ideology of innate gender identity seems well entrenched in the international, as also is the method, foreign to Marxism, of attacking and no-platforming critics.

The group-think of gender ideology seems to extend to a new culture of radical anti-imperialism.  It is not enough to oppose the Russian invasion. We are required to ignore the long running NATO aggression and the war drive by the US today - a drive that extends well beyond Ukraine to the Middle East, Asia and Latin America.

We would like to believe that open discussion and democratic debate could lead to the resolution of these deep differences.  In our experience the bureau is far from direct in responding to alternative views and in international discussion, although everyone is usually allowed to speak, the decisions appear predetermined.

So overall our question is this.  Is there any mechanism through which we can discuss our critique of an anti-systemic movement in general and its application in Ireland in particular?

We await your suggestions as to how we might resolve these issues

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