[Marxism] Ireland: Convention of the Left - the IRSP view

Philip Ferguson plf13 at student.canterbury.ac.nz
Tue Feb 24 22:02:51 MST 2004

Thanks to Danielle for posting the URL for the IRSP e-zine.

The piece giving the IRSP view of the Convention of the Left organised 
by the Irish Sociaist Workers Party and the Communist Party (the two 
main components of the Socialist Environmental Alliance) isn't very 
long, so I thought it would be worth posting, as it deals neatly with 
the economism of most the Irish 'Marxist' left:


Nothing Surprising and Nothing New

The article on the "Convention of the Left" in last week's Plough was
nothing if not timely. It also represented an acknowledgement of what
the likely outcome of the Convention meeting in the VAC in Derry last
Saturday was going to be.

A non-party socialist described the course of the meeting as follows:

1. IRSP delegates, who had turned up in good faith, amounted to over
20% of those present.

2. The SEA platform displayed a willingness to allow speakers to
discourse at great length, unless they happened to be republican, and
more specifically, IRSP.

3. Discussion of the necessity of an anti-imperialist, anti-partition
basis to any class struggle, or indeed campaign, in the North, was
effectively precluded, despite the feeling of the meeting that it
should be dealt with.

4. When it appeared that Republican Socialists were swaying the
meeting, a member of the platform pronounced that they would object
on principle to being a part of a grouping which included the IRSP.

The outcome of the meeting at VAC was, should we have needed it, a
lesson in the primacy of principled politics.

Those who criticise the IRSP for being "part of the problem" might be
better advised to examine the bankruptcy of their own solutions:

A) While these pure Marxists might find the writings of Connolly,
Larkin and Costello too parochial to deserve study; they can hardly
disown the writings of Marx (or indeed Lenin).

B) For Marx, Ireland was a classic example of a colony. The unity of
the working class in such circumstances was almost impossible, as a
large proportion of them were wedded to the imperialist ideal. The
descendants of the colonists saw themselves in the main as a class
apart, because of the privileges, which the British state had
provided for them in return for their support. This contradiction
between these two, artificially created, sections of the Irish
working class could, according to Marx, only be overcome by the
removal of the problem: The British colonial presence in Ireland.

C) Despite the (relative) independence achieved by the 26 counties,
the problem, and solution, has not changed in any meaningful
way.  "Northern Ireland" remains a colony, maintained for no other
purpose than to perpetuate the divisions within the working class
outlined by Marx over 150 years ago.

D) These are the facts, and no attempt to avoid them will make them
any less true. However, avoidance has a long history, most famously,
and disastrously, following the Second World War. Both the CPNI, the
small Trotskyite groups, and eventually the NILP sought to build
class politics in the North as part of an internal solution. These
efforts were of course made in good faith, but they were based on the
flawed assumption that if the border issue was skirted around it
would simply go away.

E) It would be pointless to comment on this analysis, other than to
ask where these groups are now, except that this is the same solution
as is now being put forward as a programme by the
putative "Convention of the Left."

That this exercise has developed into a debacle will come as a
surprise to few. However, like all experiences it has had its uses,
in that it has clearly drawn the line between the radical left and
the reformists. This line is National Liberation.

The "mainstream left" (as they would wish to be perceived) in the
North, believe that they can convince loyalist workers to abandon
generations of prejudice by not broaching the subject, which most
concerns them. One has to wonder at the arrogance of those who think
that the working class are stupid, but who seek to lead them in any

Loyalist/unionist workers are part of our class. They also happen to
be wrong. There is no quick fix to this contradiction within our
class. However, honesty about our goals, AND specifically our
republicanism, are necessary prerequisites for our interaction with
them. We have nothing to hide.

Finally, there is no such thing as "normal" politics.

There is only politics that serves the working class, and politics
which do not.

Clearly, and unfortunately, the current "Convention of the Left"
falls into the latter category.



Convention of the Left Query

The following e-mail was sent to the Communist Party of Ireland, The
Green Party, The Socialist Workers Party, and the Socialist
Environmental Alliance.


At the Convention of the Left Conference in Derry on February 14th,
two people, Colm Bryce and Barbara Muldoon both publicly said that
they would not work with the IRSP. Their stance was not condoned nor
condemned by the Chair. Barbara Muldoon had spoken at the conference
representing the Anti Racist Network.

We are seeking clarification. Is their position the official position
of the Socialist Environmental Alliance?

We are also asking the political parties that we know to be involved
in the SEA, i.e. The Socialist Workers Party, The Communist Party of
Ireland and the Green Party, what their own position is in relation
to this question.

We in the IRSP were under the impression that the Convention of the
Left was an open conference.  However our comrades encountered
hostility and negativity from some people from one political party.
The reason for this hostility is unclear to us, as these people have
never raised any issues of concern to us as a Party, before the

We went to that conference with an open mind, prepared to argue our
views and listen to what others had to say. We strongly believe in a
united left. We left that conference very disappointed at what had

Yours fraternally,

John Martin
Political Secretary
Irish Republican Socialist Party.

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