Building a new mass party for working class people

A SOCIALIST PARTY statement on how a new left can be built.

The Socialist Party warmly welcomes the successes of the People Before Profit Alliance, the Tipperary Workers and Unemployed Action Group as well as the gains for independent lefts and the Workers Party in Cork and  Waterford in the local elections. Combined with the excellent results achieved by the Socialist Party in the locals but particularly Joe Higgins’ outstanding victory in the Euro elections, the position of socialists has been significantly strengthened.

While the main gains in the election went to Fine Gael and Labour, the elections did reflect an important shift to the left in society. The results give an indication of the general potential that will emerge particularly when Labour participates in a right-wing anti-working class government, which could be sooner rather than later.

The Socialist Party will use its positions and its influence to popularise the idea and prepare the ground for a new mass working class party. Such a new mass workers’ party could play a very important role in challenging right-wing policies, helping workers and communities to get organised and providing essential political representation.

Can a left/socialist alliance of candidates be established before the general election?

THERE WILL be different steps along the way to building a new working class party. The Socialist Party is proposing that there should be discussions on the left to see how this can be progressed on a proper basis. In particular, we believe that the idea of an alliance of left candidates for the general election should be seriously considered.

There are important political issues that need to be dealt with. Recent statements by members of the SWP as representatives of the People Before Profit Alliance, raised question marks over their view of the character of a new left force.

We believe it is wrong to refer to Labour and Sinn Fein as on the left when clearly both parties are fully committed to implementing capitalist market policies. While some obviously see these parties as being generally on the left, it is the job of socialists to try to overcome those illusions through illustrating their real political position.

One PBPA representative made the point that the most “natural” alliance would be one between the socialist and independent left and Labour and raised the hope that Labour will take a turn to the left.

In an article on the election results, the SWP has written, “The most serious long term shift in Irish politics is the swing to the Labour Party.” If there was a long term shift to the Labour Party, that would seriously cut across the prospects of building a new left force. However, the Socialist Party does not agree with this perspective and instead the left needs to be prepared for the possibility of a dramatic shift away from Labour and to the left when, as is likely, Labour assumes office.

Is it correct to say Labour and Sinn Fein are on the left? Do these parties have a role to play in building a new left?

FOR PEOPLE on the left to suggest that Labour and Sinn Fein could take a genuine turn to the left can only serve to confuse workers and young people regarding the necessity to build a real left force. Such statements, if anything, will only serve to re-enforce illusions that may exist in Labour in particular.

In the context of a general election where people become even more desperate to get rid of the government, the support for socialist candidates can be squeezed as people feel compelled to row in behind the “opposition”. However, that makes it even more important to be clear about what Labour’s position really is and that it will attack working class people when in power and therefore the need for people to vote for or support a new left alternative now.

The Socialist Party initiated a discussion around proposals to have such an electoral alliance a number of months before the local elections but unfortunately our proposals were rejected.

Mindful of the SWP/PBPA comments mentioned above, if our proposals for a local electoral alliance were rejected because some favoured a very broader /non-socialist alliance, that position needs to be seriously debated.

The assumption underlying such positions is that it is impossible or very difficult to win support on the basis of socialist ideas and policies. However, Joe Higgins’ victory in the Euro elections shows that assumption to be false. Joe and the Socialist Party stood on a clear socialist programme, with Joe clearly identified as a socialist, and won a brilliant victory.

Discussion on all of these issues is essential in order to move forward

THE ESSENTIAL proposals we raised for the establishment of a local election alliance are relevant for any discussions re an alliance for the general election or building a new left.

The essential points we put forward were:

1. That an alliance should have a programme that opposes the capitalist market and that members of the alliance should not do deals at national or local level with right wing capitalist parties etc.

2. That a candidate’s campaign should have a base to it – for example a strong campaign or issue or a credible record of struggle by the candidate.

3. That decisions in the alliance should be arrived at by consensus and agreement after open discussion. The structures should be democratic and, at least initially, federal in nature.

The Socialist Party believes there needs to be debate and discussion regarding all of these issues if we are to be able to establish genuine collaboration and an electoral alliance and if the important gains in the local and Euro elections are to be used to maximum effect.