7 March 2016 Edition
Let’s build a new future on what has been achieved
We need to break with the past and work to create the new dynamic that Right2Change has made possible
The Right2Change principles are an umbrella which allows different political forces to maintain their own identity and specific purpose but to unite where it matters
THIS ELECTION has not been the end of the process of resistance to austerity and the policies that put the interests of the richest and most privileged above those of the ordinary working man and woman.
It is rather the beginning of a fightback that can see political parties of the Left come together with trade unions, community organisations and single-issue campaigns to make a decisive break from the stale politics of the old parties such as Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour.
The Right2Change principles which brought so many thousands out on the streets to demonstrate for a real alternative create an umbrella which allows different political forces to maintain their own identity and specific purpose but to unite where it matters in order to get change.
We can expect (as we have experienced) that the media – overwhelmingly owned by the top business interests – will use every dirty trick they can to try and split this new movement, so it is up to every party of the Left to make sure that this doesn’t happen.
As Sinn Féin is the largest single component of this new opportunity, it also has the biggest responsibility to be sensitive about the rights and identity of the smaller components while at the same time pushing to ensure that the fight for social change is linked centrally to the struggle for the completion of the fight for national freedom – for a united, independent, democratic republic.
A key question in this regard is what happens to the Labour Party.
Labour chose to put the pensions of its most senior members above the interests of the working class, and indeed above the interests of their own party – a fact that will lead many to write the party off.
Perhaps that will happen. But the tradition it represents remains an important part of the armoury of working people in their struggle for a better life.
Back in 1912, when James Connolly and other trade unionists moved a motion at the Trades Union Congress of that year to establish a political party, what they had in mind was a party that would give expression to the needs and demands of organised labour in the political field.
Sadly, the Labour Party has moved further and further away from that role – but it is a role which cannot be ignored.
To some extent, Right2Change plays that role. Only to some extent, though. The willingness of, for example, the SIPTU leadership to blind itself to the realities of a Labour Party that functioned as a junior partner to Fine Gael has weakened the whole trades union and progressive movements.
• The Labour Party would have to completely change to be part of the fightback
Of course, the Labour Party would have to be completely changed to play a positive role in the fightback which came into being against it and which is going forward without it. But the fightback will be strengthened if a new Labour Party can be brought to play its part.
This is not ‘New Labour’ in the Tony Blair sense but a new Labour that goes back to its roots as a voice of organised labour.
To do this, Labour must, of course, recognise that it betrayed the working class and organised labour by joining in the austerity government.
That is a battle which must be fought with the remnants of Labour.
Equally, elements of the Left that have remained outside the united Right2Change campaign must be challenged.
The Socialist Party and Anti-Austerity Alliance need to abandon their sectarian exclusiveness and join with others, especially Sinn Féin, to win the progressive alternative that is possible.
Equally, the Social Democrats and the Left Independents must be confronted with the reality that no party on its own can effect the change that is needed – and it certainly cannot be achieved by a small group trying to do a better deal with the old Establishment parties than Labour managed to do.
We need to break with the past and work to create the new dynamic that Right2Change has made possible.
And in this new dynamic we cannot ignore the democratic right of the Irish people to national unity in an independent state, or the threat to our well-being and our future that is posed by the European Union’s project of creating a super-state that will eliminate the sovereignty of nation states.
We serve neither King nor Kaiser but Ireland, but we can only do that by working together with respect, comradeship and honesty with each other.