Socialists and left unity in Ireland 2020
To members of People Before Profit,
We commend your initiative, ‘let’s bring the left together to fight this government’.
Although the formation of a conservative government is a threat to working class communities, it is a threat that we can meet.
The fact that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have been obliged to come together is historic. For decades, the main voice of opposition to whichever of these parties has led a government was the other party. And as we are all well aware, this was no real opposition at all. Discontent was carefully channelled down pathways that were safe for the Irish elite. Now, however, there is an opportunity to escape into entirely new and radical ways of thinking about the world and to popularise socialist answers to a massive, global crisis.
Sinn Féin will be the largest voice of opposition. This is a significant step forward compared to the old Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael posturing. And because Sinn Féin connect to the same working class communities that we do, there will be plenty of opportunity to both work with them, but also alert our class to the limitations of that party and offer a much more fundamental, revolutionary, change than does Sinn Féin.
When the crisis of 2008 hit, we were not well placed to resist the ‘shock and awe’ policies that saddled Ireland with enormous debt and cowed the trade unions with the scale of cuts that both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil agreed were necessary to save the Irish ‘economy’ (the wealth of the Irish elite).
The crisis of 2020 and 2021 will be worse, economically. But this time there is a very different mood in the country. One where people will question the government’s priorities and loyalty to an elite who have grown enormously wealthy over the past ten years. Young people, especially, have been emboldened by referendum victories.
A coherent socialist vision for a world in which the wealth is taken off the rich and large businesses to solve the needs of housing and healthcare is going to be crucial. A vision which can assist movements take off at the speed of the Black Lives Matter protests and amplify them when they do happen. Not just on the streets, as you point to, but also with the return of the mass strike: the most powerful form of protest we have.
The role of socialists within these movements must be democratic and open. We can learn from and be led by these new movements. Our spirit should be in keeping with the disability rights slogan of the 80s: “nothing about us without us”.
This vision, as you rightly say, has to be identified with, ‘fighting racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia.’ Of course, too, socialists should be proudly identified with the campaigns of those with disabilities for equal access and equal opportunity and with the need to help farmers make the transition from a cruel and unhealthy livestock industry to a climate and animal-friendly one. We should demand that public services such as health are taken into full state control, as we have seen the possibilities of doing this during the COVID-19 crisis. We should fight for public housing on public land. We must resist cuts to youth and community services.
The endless growth required by a capitalist society cannot deliver us the technology we need to create a sustainable planet faster than it makes our planet uninhabitable. A society that prioritises money over welfare cannot be green.
With these goals in mind, we look forward to working with you and others in creating a fruitful conversation that does indeed bring the left together.
The members of Independent Left
On 8 July 2020, John Healy of NearFM’s Northside Today spoke to John Lyons, Independent Left, Dublin Bay North about Irish Socialism and Left Unity in Ireland for 2020.