Monday, November 24, 2014

Water charges Ireland: Could a Revolutionary Situation be Developed

by John Throne

Tens and tens of thousands of Irish workers and youth have taken to the streets and confronted the government and the state. What is the nature of this movement and what is its potential? Should it just be seen as a movement to bring down this government and replace it with another government?  Or should it be seen as having the potential to bring down the system and replace it with another system?

I support enthusiastically the militant stand of the Socialist Party in the water charges struggle. In doing so I would also like to say that I think that it would be important that the Socialist Party from its position of increased influence, take the lead in building a united front of mass direct action as has been emerging on the ground with the protests all over the country. Part of this is to put aside old conflicts and sectarianism and seek to unite the revolutionary left, such as the SP itself, the United Left, People Before Profit, Clare Daly, Joan Collins and other left and activist groups, into a revolutionary socialist current that can put forward its ideas in the movement as it develops.

What is the objective situation in Ireland now? In the CWI/SP when I was in it, we used to try and analyze the objective situation and from that decide on program, strategy and tactics. So I would like to ask this question: Is there a revolutionary situation in Southern Ireland now? This would be where the ruling class is split, the working class is showing it is prepared to fight for power, the middle class is vacillating and there exists a mass revolutionary force prepared to lead. I do not think this exists. I think it would be a mistake to think it does. However this is not the end of the story.

Elements of this situation do exist. There are splits within the capitalist class and its parties. The working class is confronting the government and the state if not yet confronting capitalism consciously. Sections of the middle layers are vacillating. The question I would like to pose is: Can progress be made to strengthen and develop these elements which could lead to a revolutionary situation?

One element that could certainly be strengthened in the building of a revolutionary force is if the revolutionary left groups could get over their sectarianism and come together.  There are many many thousands of workers and youth in an out of left groups which could be brought together. There are many who have been through the left groups and been disgusted by their sectarianism. There are many who would join a revolutionary left force if they could see one which this sectarianism didn't exist.

If these forces could be brought together, if such a force could be built, the working class could then be assisted in moving to confront the system. Such an influential revolutionary left could win to its ranks the most combative and conscious workers and youth. This force could then orient to the mass of the working class on the following strategy and program: Build committees of workers and youth against the water charges in every workplace, union local, district and trades councils, communities, schools and colleges, all decisions to be taken by these committees by democratic vote.

These committees can fight against the water charges but also fight for the cancellation of all debts to the banks and finance houses and for the taking into democratic public ownership of the banks, finance houses and all oil and gas wealth and all major industry.  From this, a fund could be  established for rebuilding and solving the problems the country faces. Such a lead by a non sectarian left force would see its influence grow dramatically. It could win over the most active and combative working class forces, orient these to the mass of the working class and build a revolutionary working class movement that could change things fundamentally.

This movement could also be given a direction that would extend outside the South of Ireland. Similar struggles are threatening in the North. Similar struggles are threatening in England, Scotland and Wales and throughout Europe. This movement can be developed into an international movement.

The only questions I have about the statement from the SP are these. First: What does it say about and what does it suggest it will do, about bringing together the many revolutionary socialists both in and out of organizations into a mass revolutionary force which can give leadership and seek to challenge the capitalist system and its austerity program?  Second: While raising the issue of the next election is correct, I do not think it is sufficient. I think that there is the possibility of building a movement to challenge capitalism in the present situation, but this will not be done if we confine our strategy and tactics and program within the limits of reforming the capitalist system, or winning a majority in the Dail, (This is where the building of the committees comes in, they already exist in embryo form in the anti water charges committees) and within the borders of the South of Ireland. It will not be done if we set our sights only on the next election and how many seats the left can win. It is a very serious mistake not to develop the committees to be the base of the struggle and that all decisions be taken democratically by these committees.

Finally the same question again: Could a revolutionary situation be developed if the left forces got over their sectarianism, came together and sought to win the most combative and thinking workers and youth and oriented these to the mass of the workers and to the middle layers around a democratic anti capitalist socialist program and internationalism? I think it can; it certainly cannot be ruled out.

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