Article from the Sept 2004 edition, Socialist Voice
A new left alliance?
AT A MEETING of twenty activists in Dublin in late July it was argued that the local election results show that there is the basis for a left alliance or a new working class party.
The main organiser of the meeting was Councillor Joan Collins. Two members of the Socialist Party attended.
The Socialist Party shares the genuine desire of some activists for the establishment of a new mass working class party and will help build one when the political conditions for its development exist. However the Socialist Party does not believe the basis for the launching of a "socialist/left alliance" or a new mass party of the working class exists at present. The Socialist Party is opposed to a premature launching of such an alliance or party because it would not involve significant new sections of working class activists. In reality it would simply be the coming together of the already existing left forces.
Premature initiatives, in particular when they are undemocratically organised like the Socialist Labour Party and the SWP dominated Socialist Alliance in Britain, can set back and complicate the process towards the formation of a genuine alliance and a new party of the working class.
It is a significant overstatement to say, as some claimed at the meeting, that the local elections represented a dramatic breakthrough for socialists or that 10 councillors not just four were close to being or could have been elected. Without the bin tax struggle, the vote for a number of the left or independent candidates in Dublin would have been seriously diminished.
Just under 27,000 votes were cast for up to 29 candidates who would claim to be connected to the anti bin tax campaigns. Four were elected, three from the Socialist Party (all getting between 15 - 20%) and Joan Collins in Crumlin (just under 14%).
Three other candidates came close - a switch of less that a hundred votes would have resulted in the election of Ciaran Perry (9.5% - Cabra) and Lisa Maher (7.5% - Dundrum) and the possible election of Pat Dunne (7.5% - Greenhills). However it would be wrong to underestimate the conditions necessary to increase votes by such amounts. The best votes were generally achieved in areas where parties or individuals had either a real record of campaigning or had seriously fought the bin tax. In some areas, the existence of a working class, left tradition was also an important factor.
The Socialist Party got just over 13% of the vote in the areas where it stood. The SWP got just over 5%. The credible bin tax candidates who were independent of these two parties got just under 9%. Some of the votes for left candidates were credible. But overall, especially when it is looked at from a national point of view and not just from a Dublin perspective, these votes don't represent a decisive move by sections of the working class towards the building of a new working class political force.
The view that a slate of candidates would have qualitatively increased the votes of individual candidates is exaggerated. The Socialist Party was in favour of a slate of anti bin tax candidates but in order for a slate to have had the impact that some claim, there needs to be a developed mood and an active searching on behalf of the working class for such a political alternative. In the current situation with the absence of struggle in society a slate would have had a limited effect.
Establishing a slate is not primarily about votes, it's about what do the candidates/slate represent for the working class. We were not in favour of endorsing as "anti bin tax candidates" people who were not prepared to seriously build the campaign and fight in the actual struggle. To give such endorsments would undermine the anti-bin tax struggle.
If the Socialist Party's proposal for a real slate of genuine campaigners had been agreed in the Dublin City Campaign, it could have resulted in an all Dublin slate of up to twenty candidates. Those candidates who the Socialist Party opposed endorsing only got on average a vote of just over 3%.
Another meeting will take place in early September to have further discussions about a new political formation. The Socialist Party will support political initiatives that can take the working class movement forward in a real way. A new mass party of the working class will emerge in future when tens of thousands of working class activists all over the country are roused into political struggle.
For now the most important issue is to assist the working class and young people to get active in struggle against the anti-working attacks of this government.