Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

‘Trump victory: don’t mourn – organise!’ by Brendan Young

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Trump victory: don’t mourn – organise!

As the news of Trump’s victory sinks in, and is welcomed by the xenophobic right like LePen in France and presumably Farrage in Britain – who spoke at Trump rallies – the pattern of politics is becoming clearer. What has happened in the USA is an outcome of the failed promises of Obama; likewise in Britain where the betrayals of the Blairite-led Labour Party have created support for the xenophobic UKIP and Brexit; in France there is growing support for LePen due to the failures of Hollande and the French Socialist Party; in Germany, the racist AfD has growing support; and similar patterns can be seen in Austria, Belgium and Italy – not to mention support for the xenophobic right in Hungary and Poland.

To me the lesson is this: if those who claim to represent ordinary people don’t fight for a real alternative that will improve life for those suffering under austerity and marginalisation, a section of the working class and the poor will turn to the xenophobic right for a solution.

So far we in Ireland have escaped this. But the experience in the USA and across Europe is that only the fighting left can provide a real alternative. The failure of Ireland’s Labour Party to defend ordinary people has resulted in a collapse in support for Labour and growing support for the left. The AAA-PBPA alliance has gained support and there is continued support for for left Independents. And also for SF, which is seen as a left alternative but unfortunately appears willing to go into coalition with FF in the future.

To my mind, the Left in Ireland must now be much more politically ambitious. The AAA-PBPA groups should not sit on the laurels of increased support in opinion polls and carry on as at present – recruiting small numbers to their individual groups. It’s time to consider a broader initiative, based upon a commitment to mass action and a number of key demands – including repudiating the bank debt, taxing the rich and big business, breaking the EU rules and spending on housing and public services, legalising abortion and ending direct provision. This could draw together those who are willing to lead a fight for real change but who are not willing to join either the AAA or PBPA at present.

Likewise those who are involved in the discussions for a new initiative including Brendan Ogle, Joan Collins and others around the Independents for Change grouping – as recently reported in the Phoenix magazine. A political initiative for which the starting point is exclusion of and competition against the existing left groups – which are rightly criticised for competing against one another – does not bode well. At minimum there should begin a discussion on the possibility of a united left slate for the next general election, which is likely to be early in 2018.

In the USA, Bernie Sanders should now leave the Democrats. There is no solution to the crisis facing working class Americans in this party of big business and millionaires. It may be possible to launch a new party with Jill Stein of the Greens – although many who supported Sanders may now not trust him on account of his support for Clinton. But only a party that is independent of the politics of big business can lead a fight for a real alternative – either in the USA or in Europe.

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