“An organised group of people working for a cause”. That is a dictionary definition of the word “party”. James Connolly went further when he described the socialist movement as the “great anti theft movement of the 20th century”.
Connolly, with James Larkin, established the Labour Party to fight for the working class. The trade unions were one arm of the movement and the Labour Party was to be the second because as the saying goes, “you can’t fight with one arm tied behind your back”.
What a disgrace; one hundred years on since its foundation, Labour is now organising the robbery of working class people just so bankers, speculators and the capitalists are bailed out.
For more than 20 years now Labour has been completely integrated into the system and neutered of any radicalism. Now more than ever, working class people need fighting trade unions to resist the austerity attacks and a political party to fight for an alternative.
This betrayal has had a real impact. It is now quite normal to hear a devastated worker outside the gate of an office or factory that has just announced its closure say “what can you do, we’ll just have to see what happens!”
The fact that so many people feel powerless or don’t see that there is an alternative is the responsibility of trade union leaders and because the sell-out of Labour.
But this crisis is not inevitable; it’s the result of wealth and resources being owned by a tiny minority. Austerity and the bailout aren’t necessary; they are just the means for the super rich to rob ordinary people.
A working class party could expose what’s going on and organise a fight back. It would show that when Labour and Fine Gael impose cuts to schools, hospitals and the new Household Tax, it is in order to pay over another €1.5 billion to the bondholders of Anglo Irish Bank on 25 January!
There is huge anger but there is also a mood of resignation. A party with a base in society could explain how resources could be used to satisfy needs, rather than for private greed.
A party could be the catalyst to popularise these ideas and could show how if working class people unite, they have enormous power and capabilities to fight for change.
The best way to mark the founding of Labour by Connolly and Larkin is to strive to build a new party to represent working class people today.
The United Left Alliance was established a year ago to help fight for such a new party. The groups that formed the ULA got five TDs elected last February but since then, because of a marked dip in the mood, the ULA itself has not recruited a lot of working class people.
People’s frustration at this lack of development in the ULA is understandable but when trying to build anything – a campaign, an alliance, a struggle or a party, the mood and involvement of working class people are essential factors.
Moving to establish a party without the actual involvement of significant numbers of ordinary working class people, would lead to it becoming an irrelevant political sect. The ULA is not the new party, nor is it likely to just become the new party at some future date.
The ULA is an alliance that fights on issues, outlines a left and socialist alternative and crucially popularises the idea of a new party. A new party will most likely come from the likes of the ULA combining with community and workers campaigns and struggles.
The Household Tax campaign can involve thousands of people in political activity up and down the country, creating the potential basis for a new party. ULA members should get fully involved in this struggle.
The occupations on redundancies in Vita Cortex and La Senza may be the start of a broader struggle on redundancies and jobs. Again ULA members must be fully supportive and try give these struggles a political character. That is the way the ULA can be built and how the basis for a new party can be established.
There aren’t any green shoots of economic recovery but there are signs of a recovery in mood and fighting spirit and it is very important that the ULA positively launches itself into this changing situation.