Workers Solidarity Movement statement to
'Left Unity' meeting


On Saturday 25 November a meeting under the title 'Left unity: Can it happen here' was held in Dublin. The Workers Solidarity Movement was asked to give our views on this question. Below is the text we agreed to present although on the day due to time constraints it was necessary to leave sections out.

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WSM contribution to 'LEFT UNITY: Can it happen here?'
meeting in Dublin on 25 Nov 2000.

We'd like to begin by thanking those organising this meeting for asking us, the Workers Solidarity Movement, along to contribute our views on the formation of a 'Socialist Alliance' type structure in Ireland.

Over the years we have worked with many of the people here today in struggles to win divorce rights, to defeat the water charges, to combat 'social partnership' in our unions, to resist the rise of racism. On a more global level WSM members have participated in the first International Encounter for Humanity and against Neoliberalism in Mexico, and the second one in Spain. We have also attended 'anti-capitalist' conferences in Bradford and London. And, of course, we took part - in Ireland and in Prague - in the S26 world-wide day of action against capitalism, and the counter summit that preceded it.

Many of you will also be familiar with our support for genuinely open campaigns as opposed to party political fronts. Our activity in this area is geared towards winning whatever victories are presently possible and towards using methods that encourage working class self-confidence rather than reliance on personalities or leaders.

That is why we have worked in groupings like the Anti-Racism Campaign, Dublin Abortion Rights Group, and SIPTU Fightback rather than following the dishonest pattern of setting up our own fronts to campaign on these issues.

This involvement demonstrates that we have a commitment to working with others. However when it comes to the proposal for a Socialist Alliance we feel the need to be more critical of what appears to be on the table.

Some of us have followed the progress of the British Socialist Alliances over the last year although we'd have to admit to being a lot less familiar with the other examples pointed to the letter. However it appears all of them follow a similar pattern of attempting to bring together existing far left political organisations in an alliance that is primarily electoral in nature. This seems to also be the proposal for the Irish alliance, Johns letter is specifically "A proposal of a left alliance to contest the next 26 County Election".

For us there are two problems in this proposal

We don't see this as the way forwards. In our view the failure of the left in the last century was that to a large part it adopted the political organisation of capitalism in promoting a system of choosing someone or party to govern the working class. For us a real revolutionary movement has to reject these methods in favour of direct democracy through assemblies and mandated and recallable delegates. We think those who imagine you can combine the two have simply failed to study and understand how class society functions.

This is a separate argument to the one about whether or not any effective action can be undertaken through parliament. There is no need to argue that here as people will be familiar with that argument already and some agree with it.

Our second problem leads on from this. This emphasis on leaders and parties as organisational forms is also a legacy of the failure of 20th century socialism. What we need today is not some sort of argument for popular or united fronts of existing parties but rather a break with that whole methodology. In short we favour the non and often anti - party forms of organisations that are emerging from the anti-capitalist movement against the sterile project of regrouping the existing left.

Most importantly, we see socialism as being inseparable from freedom. All those effected by a decision should have the opportunity of taking part in making that decision. We reject as contrary to our political project any vision of socialism that does not explicitly oppose the division of people into rulers and ruled. For this reason, as anarchists, we stand in opposition to both social democracy and Leninism.

It could be that we mis understand the purpose of this meeting or that as the day progresses something quite different to what we expect will emerge. In any case we are not ruling out working with whatever does emerge around specific issues and indeed taking part in whatever discussions are ongoing. But if the Socialist Alliance emerges with an electoral element then we will not be involved as an organisation or as individuals.

We look forward to working with people here in the struggles to beat the bin tax, to motivate more of our fellow union members to lodge claims in excess of the PPF terms, to combat racism, to win greater democracy in our unions, to oppose the proposed abortion referendum.

We are happy to work with you in order to win gains for our class, to raise people's aspirations and to discuss, not only how to change society - but also what sort of society we want to live in.