The response to the health cuts, particularly those affecting services for the disabled signalled that anger and disillusionment with the Government and their programme of austerity is growing.
At the end of August, the Socialist Party raised that United Left Alliance (ULA) activists should propose in the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes (CAHWT) that it use its authority to take the lead in organising a mass anti-austerity demonstration in advance of December’s Budget.
Given that the mood seems to be changing, we believe that this idea must be pushed. CAHWT has undermined the Government plans for new taxes. Nothing should be taken for granted and the pressure against the household, property and water taxes must continue.
But CAHWT should also try to ignite an active movement against the general policy of austerity and if members of the ULA fight to make that a reality, that will also demonstrate concretely to working class people the important political role that the ULA can play.
The ULA badly needs to demonstrate that it has such a leading role to play, if it is to overcome the damage it has suffered over the last months by being associated with Mick Wallace by the media. Clare Daly’s political support for Wallace was a key factor in this and resulted in her resignation from the Socialist Party, which itself further undermined the ULA.
The ULA is at a hurdle and working class people are watching, hoping that it will negotiate the hurdle cleanly and move on. However it’s also clear that people have their doubts.
Some say the Socialist Party contributed to the damaging of the ULA by not going along with the chorus in the media for Wallace’s resignation. But to support this demand would have been the easy, but the completely wrong thing to do.
If Wallace had been forced to resign in such circumstances the power of the media to dictate political policy would have been strengthened and would quickly have been used to damage the left itself.
Sometimes taking a principled position isn’t fully understood initially and can mean you take a temporary hit. At the same time the most active and politicised sections of the working class understand the need to stand up to the media, something that we are confident broader layers will come to understand over time.
Unfortunately, Clare Daly’s position was fundamentally different and bewildered people who simply couldn’t accept that there was any reason for her to politically support Wallace. This gave the media countless opportunities, not only to damage Clare, but also to damage the ULA.
It is very important that the ULA operates in a principled way and recognises that for working class people being connected in any way with a boss, but particularly a property developer who engaged in significant tax evasion, is a “no no”.
Unless the ULA is clear on these issues, the question mark and doubts over it will remain and real progress in building a strong left and socialist movement will be impossible.
Practically that means that ULA public representatives shouldn’t be politically connected to Mick Wallace, as that means that the ULA is connected to him. The two can’t be separated. It also means that the ULA should not invite Mick Wallace into its campaigns or initiatives on specific issues because it is inevitable that that will be used to draw a political link. It is not the job of the ULA to help Mick Wallace relaunch himself.
In particular, if the ULA is to maximise the role it can play in the household tax campaign, it will be necessary that all ULA representatives clearly say that Mick Wallace can’t have anything to do with the campaign in Wexford or anywhere else and act in accordance with that view.
It is clear and established that Clare’s resignation from the Socialist Party was fundamentally about her political connection to Mick Wallace. In her statement she clearly implied it was about differences about building the ULA. This isn’t credible and is an avoidance of the issue. However, as a result, the ULA can’t be seen to avoid the issue or it will lose credibility.
Alternatively, a clear position on this issue would be an important step forward. An active involvement in the household tax campaign and trying to build a movement against austerity, tied together with a strong argument for socialist change can help the ULA take important steps forward in the struggle to build a new party for working class people, on a principled left basis.