1 September 2005 Edition
Greaves summer school....a missed opportunity
As the 17th Desmond Greaves Summer School opened last Friday night to discuss the prospects for the left in Ireland, approximately 200 left-wing activists from a variety of political groups and none were shutting down two dozen Statoil stations across Dublin and Ireland.
It is perhaps reflective of the growing disconnection between the Greaves Summer School and left-wing activism that the Rossport campaign was barely mentioned in the discussion, chaired by artist and activist Robert Ballagh, led by the only speaker, Eugene McCartan, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Ireland. This is a pity because otherwise McCartan had a number of important points to make in a speech that could have done with substantial pruning.
McCartan chose the European Union, the Good Friday Agreement and the development of All-Ireland politics and the need to democratise and empower the Trade Union Movement as the issues that should define the left. He also highlighted the need for trust among the different groups and parties in the Irish left, while acknowledging the difficulties in creating it.
McCartan went on to challenge those in, "Labour and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions who state there is no alternative to the EU process we are currently embarked on and believe the EU social model, whatever that is, serves as a better option than the neo-liberal model. They ignore the reality that the European social model is under direct and sustained attack from neo-liberalism."
He went on to point out that EU imperialism serves as both an ally and an opponent to US imperialism depending on the context and opposition presented in each circumstance, and described the EU itself as "now an obstacle to social change".
Moving to the Good Friday Agreement, McCartan identified "...one key failure since the GFA was signed is the failure to mobilise people in the South around the potential strategic thrust of the Agreement for all-Ireland development". He went on to call for the Irish Trade Union Movement to develop its own all-Ireland economic strategy.
Visitors to the School's Saturday and Sunday sessions reported a mixed, but generally unimpressive, collection of discussions though the Sunday morning talk on The Politics of the Peace Process was described as 'interesting and thought-provoking' by a number of participants.
Overall this year's School was disappointing, and at a time when the Irish left is facing a number of difficult choices, a missed opportunity. The School continues to be somewhat isolated from left-wing political activism and the two most interesting topics, on the Peace Process and the left in Ireland, suffered from not having a panel of speakers representing various viewpoints.