Sunday, June 14, 2015

Belfast: Open letter to all on the left. A little humility would not go astray.

Sean O'Torain.
Expelled member, Irish Socialist Party and CWI

Thank you Richard for putting up the piece on the ten thousand people in Belfast, Protestant and Catholic together marching for Gay Rights, for the human rights of all. This is an inspiration. I rejoice. But it is also something else. It is a lesson to those of us, including myself, on the left, who thought, and many still do, they knew everything. Who would ever have predicted that the biggest demonstration of united Protestants and Catholics in Belfast after 30 years of war would be on Gay rights. I certainly did not. For those of us like myself, then in what was the Militant, before they expelled me, now the SP, it was going to be on economic issues, through the trade unions and the building of a mass labor party. It did not turn out that way. This organization should catch itself on. Should openly accept the mistakes it made and it did not and does not know everything.

Then there are the Republican and Loyalist organizations. For them there was never any question of united activity. It was a question of defeating the other side. I suppose you could say there was something that united them until very recently until the Provos recast themselves as a liberal capitalist Party, up to then Republicanism and Loyalism were united AGAINST Gay rights.

The main lesson for an old time socialist like me is this. For over 20 years I thought I knew everything. I had a view of the future that was set in stone. It sure did not turn out that way. Like the rest of the SP in Ireland I spent decades explaining that capitalism would never go back to the Stalinist world. That was a bit of a mistake. Of historic proportions no less. History had taken a half step forward with the 1917 Russian revolution and we expected it to complete this step and with this capitalism would be overthrown and we would have a socialist world. And of course we would lead this world socialist revolution. We were a bit off on that prediction also. Maybe the leaders of the SP in Ireland and its international organization the CWI should show a bit of humility. They would be more respected if they did.

Then there is the other thing. To lead a worldwide socialist revolution we need an organization of tens of millions. All the left focus on trying to build their own little group. All the left have undemocratic vastly over centralized internal lives. I say this without fear of contradiction, there is no possible way that any of these with their present internal lives can organize a force of tens of millions of workers.

Again a bit of humility is needed. The old methods of organizing have to be rejected and new methods have to be used. This would not be so hard if the groups which see themselves as revolutionary socialist would only have an honest look at the organization they all base themselves on - the Bolshevik Party.

As Trotsky said, the healthy period of Bolshevism was when it was made up of factions and factions within factions. These left groups need to catch themselves on. As far as the Republican and Loyalist groups, with their military structures and tradition there is no way they can build democratic forces which can build a democratic socialist world in which all peoples which ever their gender or sexual orientation can have a place of happiness and acceptance.

Finally i was thinking the other day about the insufficient consciousness just about all of us on the left had in relation to the special oppression of women. Where were the demands in relation to gender and sexual orientation rights  in the civil rights movement of the late 1960's? There were very important exceptions such as the secretary of the Derry Labor party in the early 1970's Kathy Harkin. But people like myself were very  accustomed, and correctly so, to describe British rule in Ireland as being based on, yes military repression but also divide and rule. We always saw this as divide and rule between the religions. But of course their was also the other basis for divide and rule. That was gender and sexual orientation. All the elites, British imperialism, the Protestant elite North and South, the Catholic elites North and south, the Catholic hierarchy, all used divide and rule, yes between the religions but also between the genders and the different sexual orientations to keep control of their "flocks" to put down opposition and to fill their pockets and bank accounts and the plates they passed round in their churches.

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