Irish NEC Majority
Election 2016 – what really happened
The IS Majority and the Faction mention the February 2016 General Election campaign. The accusations they make in relation to that are:
- The leading comrades in Ireland denied that there were issues/mistakes with the material produced during the election;
- We only accepted that there were mistakes after a series of sharp discussions;
- The mistakes reflected an opportunist trend in the leadership.
There were real weaknesses in the material issued in the election campaign itself. In the Faction’s Platform statement the comrades say that we “formally” accepted this, but only after a series of sharp discussions. Use of the word “formally” casts doubt over whether we really accepted it , raising a question over our honesty, in an attempt at portraying us as defensive and difficult to work with.
What the IS Majority and the Platform says about that situation is one-sided and misleading. The truth is, even in advance of the discussion in London, we accepted the weaknesses in the material.
Open to criticism & accepting of mistakes
In response to his letter of 28/2/2016, KMcL emailed PS on 9 March saying:
“Thanks for taking the time to do up your notes. As at the start of the email you indicate that the points were following on from the points that you raised while here. I didn’t immediately read the because of other work and could only return to them fully a couple of days ago. I think they go a good bit beyond what we had discussed, but I don’t have a problem points being raised. Anyway, that’s why there has been a delay in getting back to you… We have been beyond our capabilities here, in the sense of political and organisational overreach, for a considerable time. I expected that comrades coming here could find multiple weakness, which many comrades here would also recognise, I don’t have a problem with that. In general there needs to be a major, fundamental rebalancing and replenishing if we are to move forward.”
Far from being defensive, we anticipated that with the number of comrades from other sections in Ireland for the election, points about weaknesses in the work were likely to be raised. We were open to that, otherwise we wouldn’t have encouraged comrades to come.
At the meeting with the IS in London, KMcL accepted the programmatic weaknesses in the election material, giving examples of them in his lead off. This and other information below, will show that we readily accepted that there were issues regarding programme. There was a recognition of this during the campaign itself. The disagreement in London wasn’t really about the material, it was about how and why such politically deficient material had been produced.
The IS and PS indicated their view that it was due to an opportunist adaptation. This followed on from some of the points made in PS’s letter, for example:
“Was there a concern that if we did take this approach (meaning advocate more radical steps – authors) it would undermine our electoral prospects? Was there a worry that we could be attacked in the media”. And later, “Following the election there is likely to be even greater pressure, in particular as the possibility of a left government grows in popular consciousness, to water down further our approach.” (Our emphasis).
Intense election campaign – completely overstretched
The party in Ireland has a record of withstanding intense pressure from the media and political opponents. That was the case during the Bin Tax battle when a number of comrades went to prison; it was also the case around the time of the general election itself with the challenge and pressure from Right2Change regarding a political alliance with Sinn Fein and entering government; and in relation to the attacks on us from the state and the media onslaught in relation to the Jobstown protest and subsequent trial.
Regarding the election material, we outlined our view that the mistake was rooted in the particular and extreme pressure of this election, where comrades were not able to produce all the material we had planned because of the magnitude of immediate tasks (including a manifesto for mass distribution), and because of the lack of time to step back for necessary political consideration of the material that we did produce.
We ceded much cadre from the Centre to the local constituencies, as we were involved in many very competitive electoral battles. There was just a small core of comrades in the Centre, for all the tasks of strategising, monitoring campaigns, writing, designing and producing material, and all of the other administrative tasks in the election.
In Ireland the weeks of the election campaign itself often have a decisive impact on the result. It is necessary to react and respond to the dynamic, particularly whatever becomes established as the main issues nationally and in each constituency. If you don’t your campaign can be left behind and the opportunity to win or defend positions can easily be lost. An important issue came up early on in the election, where Sinn Fein said they would respect the fiscal rules of the EU. In effect, this meant that they would limit their spending and investment proposals to stay within the parameters set by the EU, and it was crucial for our campaigns that this be brought out fully. This was an important opportunity for us to expose Sinn Fein, and so we produced an additional and effective leaflet on this specific issue.
An aspect of the problem we faced regarding programme was that we were part of the AAA and were standing as AAA candidates — a political initiative that had come out of the campaign against the Household and Property Tax. The AAA was an alliance of the Socialist Party and working class activists who were largely stepping into activity and politics for the first time. Comrades may have issues with us being part of the AAA, now Solidarity, but this was connected to us implementing the dual task adopted by the CWI (of aiding the rebuilding of the workers’ movement and mass parties of the working class, as well as a revolutionary cadre party in this period). The complication was that the AAA had not adopted an explicitly socialist position at that point. There were hundreds of people active in the AAA in the different areas, and many more who were supportive. We felt that through the election and if there was a successful outcome, that many more could also become active.
It would have been politically wrong to just try to force a socialist position on AAA activists, and undoubtedly would have created a reaction. Instead, we initiated a discussion on socialism in the AAA, for example getting comrades to specifically raise socialist ideas and policies for discussion at a national conference in September 2015. We felt it was best if the AAA develop as an explicitly socialist movement as the conclusion of a good and democratic discussion.
To overcome the issue of featuring socialism and socialist policies in the material, our plan was to produce a manifesto which would go into policies in a more developed way (the AAA had adopted an implicit socialist position so public ownership and nationalisation could have been featured without any issue). Within the manifesto the plan was to include a section on the candidate, which would explain that the candidate was a member of the Socialist Party (if relevant) and outline the socialist policies that the comrade stood for. Even though we produced the extra leaflet on Sinn Fein / fiscal space, we still intended to produce this manifesto.
Impossible pressure on a limited cadre
The election campaign was short, barely over three weeks. However, within that the intensity mounted further, particularly when the possibility emerged that we were losing the campaign, and thereby the seat, in Dublin West to Sinn Fein. This meant that some of the central team, particularly KMcL, had to drop central work and assist in the area for a time. This meant there was a chance that we may struggle to get key central tasks fulfilled. Should we not moved decisively to strengthen the intervention in DW, with the possibility of losing the seat? This was the stark position we were facing. We tried but in the end physically couldn’t produce the manifesto we had intended. This was not a political choice, it was a consequence of limited cadre, time and space.
It’s true that a manifesto wouldn’t have overcome all of the deficiencies in the other material, but it would have been an important redressing of the balance and would have featured the broader political position of the party. Again, we recognised during the campaign the deficiency in the material and so the AAA issued an online manifesto before polling day, in order to put a better political position on record. That manifesto included:
“We need to take the wealth and resources out of the hands of the 1% and bring them into democratic public ownership so we can deliver real change not the spare change offered establishment parties. On this basis the wealth of society can be productively invested and utilised so that the needs of the 99% can be met.”
In London we clearly accepted the deficiencies in the material in the lead off at the start of the meeting. So much for the myth of a series of sharp discussions. Flowing from this it was agreed that there should be a discussion on programme at the Irish National Committee, in which these weaknesses would be registered. This was done. In addition, KMcL referred to the mistakes in the material at the CWI school that summer and again at the IEC that winter in his contributions at plenary sessions.
In terms of the election material, the weakness resulted from the pressure of tasks and too little time and cadre, and this meant a lack political consideration and political discussion. However, it is on precisely this that there were a series of disagreements, as the IS refused to accept this explanation, and insisted that the material was a reflection of the leading bodies buckling to opportunism.
Effects of mass and public work
We don’t underestimate the huge opportunist pressures that are exerted in bourgeois society, and on the Irish section. We have been dealing with these for many years. In 2003/2004 and 2012 we lost leading comrades and public representatives to these pressures. These pressures obviously can bare down particularly heavily on comrades in public positions and those most involved in mass work.
However, in London we went further, and explained how the mass work, but in particular the electoral work, was having a real impact on the consciousness in the party about the importance of building a revolutionary party and cadre. This was making real and qualitative progress for the party difficult to achieve. We explained that the Irish section has been trying to break out of this loop of underdevelopment for years. In the meantime our cadre reserves were being used up and not replenished.
We raised these issues with the IS to register that the main threat of opportunism was not immediately to the party programme as such, but to the concept and actuality of the revolutionary party itself. We argued that there was a need for a decisive shift in the balance of work, away from mass work and towards recruitment and cadre development. We will deal with this and the response of the IS in the next section on relations between the NEC and the IS.
Quickly after the election, however, from the end of summer 2016 to summer 2017, the party was overwhelmingly focused on campaigning to try to defeat the attack on the Jobstown defendants. It wasn’t really until later in 2017, in preparing the work on abortion, that we were able to more decisively focus on party building in a way that we wanted. We were still in the middle of major mass work, but the nature of the struggle and the layers getting involved, many young working-class women, meant that it was more explicitly political and conducive to building. The party has been significantly strengthened since.
Not a trend of political opportunism
While we accepted that there were weaknesses in the election material, at the meeting in London we did give many examples of where political points that were absent from the material, including on socialism and public ownership etc, were put forward by comrades in mass and public forums in the immediate run up to the election. We did this just to illustrate that the omission wasn’t a trend, but related primarily to the pressure of the campaign. If it was a trend and definite position, such points would have been generally absent from our mass and public interventions, but that wasn’t the case.
SP leaflet for mass anti-water charges demonstration 29/8/2015: “Austerity and capitalism are inextricably linked. We must challenge them both through the solidarity of working-class people across Europe; working-class struggle that can link with all the victims of austerity in a powerful movement and crucially the building of a strong left that fights for socialist policies. This means challenging the rule of the billionaires, bankers and speculators by taking the key sectors of the economy into democratic public ownership and planning its use to meet human need, not profit.”
From an answer to a question from Right2Change regarding AAA policy, very widely publicised by R2C from 31/10/2015 onwards: “a government that immediately sets about the transformation of the economy on the basis of democratic public ownership of the key sections of the economy to ensure people’s needs not profit is the basis of society”.
AAA newsletter on housing, distributed en masse into tens of thousands of homes late 2015: “The root of the problem is relying on private profiteers to satisfy people’s housing needs…The banks should be taken under genuine, democratic public ownership and control and should be instructed to write down mortgages to affordable levels.”
JH launches his Minority Report from the Banking Inquiry, at a packed press conference, 27/1/2016: One of the recommendations put forward in front of the mass media was, “The Need for a Publicly Owned and Democratically Run Construction Industry to enable rational planning of the economy for people’s needs not profit and productive investment rather than speculation.”
Interview with JH in February 2016 in The Irish Times, just days before the polling day: “What should have been done was to say, the market system is a disaster; this is dictatorship by financial elites. And we would break fundamentally from the system. We would take the banks into public ownership, put them under democratic control, and on that basis reorganise the economy…put major public works programmes into effect to create the services that are needed, put people to work and reboot the economy from a socialist point of view.”
The charge of a trend of opportunism is false. Someone glibly mentioned recently you don’t just forget to put nationalisation in a leaflet. The problem wasn’t bad memory, in the actual and real situation, it was the demands of an extremely competitive election campaign where we over focused on politically winning the battle on the issues that emerged in the campaign itself, and not enough on the broader political position that we should have put forward – unfortunate case of “not seeing the wood for the trees”.
Of course opportunism is not divorced from pressure of time and overload, that can be part of the start of what can become a trend. But it wasn’t in this instance. If we had more time and space, we would have been more considered and careful, and the leaflets that were produced and in all likelihood would have been politically appropriate and correct, as is shown in the quotes given of the material that was produced in less intense situations around the same period. There were mistakes in the material, we accepted that. What we objected to was the crude and one-sided idea that these mistakes in the 2016 campaign were part of an opportunist tendency to water down our programme to get more votes, or to avoid attacks in the media.
Mistakes – a bit of balance and perspective
PS, who had left before polling day, did send a brief email raising some initial points on the weaknesses in programme while the election was still on. However, this was towards the end when the last leaflets which usually have limited content and are designed to maximise but crucially mobilise the support we have won in the campaign, were being finalised.
However, it is important to note for the record and for comrades consideration, that PS and DB who were active in the campaign (and we assume were in touch with the comrades in London throughout), were part of a group of leading comrades that were sent the drafts of all the main leaflets produced in the election. Despite the opportunity, the comrades didn’t propose any significant political changes to any of the leaflets. In fact, PS personally adapted the final leaflet in the Limerick campaign from the central draft, without making any programmatic changes or suggestions.
Does this mean that PS and DB also succumbed and buckled to opportunism? No, we think not, just that like the rest of us, the comrades were under severe pressure from an intense campaign, where some mistakes become inevitable.
In point 10, the faction Platform continues the charge of opportunism by the party by using Solidarity, the broader group we are part of, saying that much of the public material on the website of Solidarity still does not include a socialist programme. We have an issue with what the comrades seem to be implying in their recent material, which is that every leaflet, article, or nearly every paragraph, has to contain a full socialist position. Not every article or part of a website needs to contain a full socialist programme.
However, the front page of Solidarity.ie is uncluttered and has a blurb that attacks the capitalist profit system and there is immediate mention of working class, trade unions and of James Connolly and James Larkin.
There are intro’s to three brief parts, and when clicked on one opens up to quickly say:
“Halting and reversing the growing inequality means a radical break with the neo-liberal policies and the capitalist system which puts profit first.”…“Instead of relying on attracting multinationals with tax cuts and low wages, a socialist economic development policy is needed. That means investing in a rapid transition to renewable energy and public ownership under democratic control of the key sections of the economy and sources of wealth.”
The IS Majority comrades have gone from points that had validity and were accepted, to a qualitative leap into false and unfair conclusions based on exaggeration and misrepresentation. Will there be an appropriate review and discussion on the election material that other sections have produced over recent years? Mistakes in political work are inevitable. It is important to recognise them but not to blow them out of proportion. The IS Majority in particular has a responsibility to take a balanced approach. One thing that has been completely lost sight of in this aspect of the debate, that is that the organisation in Ireland achieved a huge and for us, unprecedented breakthrough by winning 3 TD’s in an election for the first time and our first TD outside of Dublin, with MB in Cork North Central. These positions have been a huge benefit and assistance, not only for the party in Ireland, but for the whole of the CWI.
Relations – The Irish section and the IS
In the Platform of the faction the IS Majority says it has had “serious concerns for a period of years” about our orientation and the methods. “Period of years” clearly indicates more than a couple of years, perhaps five or possibly more years, but IS Majority should clarify this.
Of course there have been the normal phone conversations and discussions. We have been very focused on the work, north and south, but we raised on different occasions the need for more discussion regarding the national question. At the World Congress in 2016, comrades from Ireland also proposed an addendum to the document on women, raising points about the women’s movement and on the need to discuss identity politics. The IS didn’t agree with the addendum and we didn’t put it to a vote but instead circulated it to facilitate discussion on these issues. However, apart from a limited discussion weeks after the European Bureau in 2015, and the specific post-2016 general election meeting in London on programme, the IS has not in any real developed or serious way discussed these “serious concerns” with the NEC majority, and claims they make to the contrary are false. This approach, of consciously not discussing differences, openly and constructively, is actually an extremely serious breach of the traditions of democratic discussion and democratic centralism.
This refusal to discuss with us has been spoken of as the IS being too diplomatic. This is a benign presentation of a very dangerous method. The most leading body in the international develops very negative positions on the political work of the Irish section and on the Irish leadership itself, but doesn’t discuss these with the comrades concerned, doesn’t allow a democratic opportunity for the comrades to defend themselves and answer the points if they are wrong, or to learn from and correct mistakes if they are right.
This lack of discussion didn’t mean the IS Majority’s views remained tentative or undeveloped. Rather it seems that the comrades developed one-sided views regarding Sinn Fein, the national question in Ireland, our work on women and the nature and character of the work and the party itself, unfortunately including a hostility to some of the leading comrades in Ireland.
The connection with the more long standing leading comrades in Ireland was diminished, at the same time that a separate political connection opened up with PM. It is appropriate that the IS discuss with all leading comrades and IEC members, but that should be done in a transparent way. In reality a parallel political connection became established in which, we have no doubt, the work of the section including criticisms of the leading comrades would have featured.
The immediate presenting issues that caused the IS to move to challenge the Irish leadership in late summer 2018 was their fear that after ROSA’s referendum campaign, more sections could move to engage in a developed way with the emerging women’s movement and perhaps to set up groups similar to ROSA. This was illustrated very clearly in the comments of HS at the November debate in Dublin which we quoted in Part 1 and in the document of the IS were the comrades specifically talk of ROSA not being a model for all countries. As PT’s document ‘In Defence of a Working-class Orientation for the CWI’ confirms, the IS used the contributions of young and new Irish comrades in commissions at the CWI school as justification for concerted and inaccurate criticisms of our work in the abortion struggle and referendum campaign.
This was the context, some of it not known to us at the time, when leading Irish comrades approached the IS about the [breach of protocol] and the investigation that had been undertaken, in early September 2018. While an investigation was necessary and justified and the comrades operated on a genuine basis, we accepted from early in the exchanges with the IS, and again at NC meetings and the IEC, that there were some important issues and mistakes within the investigation. However, a by-product of the investigation was information that clearly pointed to an undisclosed opposition grouping among some leading comrades, as well as the fact that confidential information from the Irish NEC and the IS had been directly leaked to the person who engaged in the [breach]. A formal faction has since been declared in Ireland, in the middle of January 2019.
Senior IS comrades decided to disregarded this information, some of which was highly embarrassing to the comrade that they had a positive political connection with. Instead they adopted a position on the investigation that was informed by their pre-existing opposition to leading comrades in Ireland, and their support for PM. They simply absorbed the information from the investigation, twisted its content and used it as part of the offensive they had already decided to mount against the political position and work of the Irish section and the approach of some leading comrades.
We have no issue whatsoever with comradely criticism, which can sometimes be of a robust character. However, this challenge has been an uncomradely, microscopic and hyper critical trawl through the work of the Irish section. When, as is inevitable, faults are found in the work, these have been taken out of context and exaggerated out of all proportion. Unfortunately the same approach is now being used against other sections.
Dispensing with method of democratic discussion
The alteration of relations between the senior IS comrades and the different leading comrades in Ireland took place over a number of years. This coincided with a diminishing of the quality of the political connection between the IS and the section.
A number of years ago, in the context of enormous pressure of work both on the IS and leading Irish comrades in the south, the quality of discussions declined. They tended to reflect a lack of preparation and awareness of the actual situation on the ground on behalf of IS comrades, something graphically illustrated by all the recent IS commentary on Ireland. IS contact regarding the work in the North has been very limited for a long time.
Debate in the CWI re resources
Around ten years ago, comrades from Ireland helped initiate a discussion about the development of the work of the International at the IEC. We advocated that the International Centre and the IS should be strengthened by sections ceding some experienced cadre to the International. That wasn’t in any way a negative comment on the IS comrades at the time, who had played a vital role, but were clearly under huge pressure. It was put forward in the context of the inevitability that the opportunities and the challenges facing the CWI would increase significantly and become even more challenging.
The IS argued against this idea of cadre being sent to the Centre, saying that it was more important to keep comrades in the sections. Instead, some younger developing comrades went to the International Centre, and in time were brought onto the IS. This was an important positive, but wasn’t enough to decisively strengthen the IS so that it could deal with the additional political challenges or the expanding scale of countries in which the CWI was operating.
In our view, collectively the IS, the IEC and the CWI, have paid the price for not strengthening the International and the IS at that time. An overload of tasks resulted in the diminishing of the political work and intervention of the IS. This difficult situation, which flowed from the pressure of the situation and the lack of resources, has been compounded by the fact that senior members of the IS don’t seem to have recognised the dangers.
That discussion from a decade ago completely speaks against the notion that the Irish comrades or IEC comrades from the other sections habitually criticised by the IS, are in any way in favour of a politically weakening of the CWI centrally or favour a federal structure. We favour a politically strong Centre, but one that also has a balanced and democratic approach.
2015 – a turning point
2015 was a turning point in relations between the IS and comrades in Ireland. The context in Ireland was the water charges revolt, our victory in the DSW By-Election and the crisis for the political establishment flowing from this movement. A sharp difference emerged between comrades from Ireland and the IS on the issue of Sinn Fein (SF) at the European Bureau meeting in London that March.
A report on Ireland was on the agenda. In the report KMcL explained the approach that the party was proposing to take (the party conference was due the weekend immediately after the Euro Bureau) regarding the outside possibility that the basis for an alternative government outside of the establishment parties, could emerge. We said, if a combination of new forces (ourselves included) and SF emerged electorally, and if there was a choice after the election between a government of the traditional establishment parties and an alternative one made up of these other forces, that we would vote to block the establishment parties and allow the other forces, most likely led by Sinn Fein, to come to power but without participating in the government.
This had to be a key part of the report, but it was just one possible development, and not the most likely one. So KMcL also felt it necessary to go into the actual current situation regarding SF, its character and approach and the need for us to make skilful but definite criticism of it. This was necessary in order to try to undermine its potential and make it easier for a genuine left to emerge.
IS comrades were clearly very uncomfortable when these points were made, and in a break accused KMcL of not informing them of this approach to SF. This surprised us, as the content of what had been said was completely in keeping with our political analysis of SF. The accusation of withholding information was also not accurate as weeks earlier the draft conference document dealing with these issues had been sent to the IS and a discussion had taken place with an IS member. In addition, the Euro Bureau meeting itself was a case of KMcL raising the points for discussion.
Subsequent to the Euro Bureau, TS wrote to KMcL asking him to come to London for discussion, as in their view, there was a problem with his approach to communicating with the IS. In a formal letter to KMcL, TS said:
“The IS has had a report from Judy B of the recent congress of the Irish section which was a positive and successful event.
However, we are writing this letter because we think it is necessary to put discussions between us on a more formal basis. This we think is necessary due to the lack of clarity which developed in communication between us. This recently arose over the dates of the Irish congress and the European Bureau and the attendance by comrades from Ireland at the EB meeting.
As indicated by TS in discussion the IS thinks there is a problem of communication and discussion between you and the IS. You did not accept this and re-iterated this in a discussion with Judy B. The IS thinks this is an important issue which we need to clarify and resolve…
…Arising from the discussion at the European Bureau there are important political and tactical issues which have arisen in the movement in Ireland. These issues in the main have not been raised for discussion with us. In your report at the EB you raised the question of the ‘Right to Water’ and some trades unions launching a possible electoral initiative.
This issue was mentioned in passing to Niall in February but has not been discussed since. It would have been better to send in writing a report of such developments so we can fully discuss their implications and our approach to them. This is after all an important development.”
The issue of a clash between the dates for the Euro Bureau and our conference was unfortunate but couldn’t be helped. We had it booked the previous year, long before the Euro Bureau was set. That didn’t stop the comrades from raising that we should put off our conference. However, KMcL sent a response on the main accusation which was that we had withheld political information regarding our approach to SF, including a possible political initiative by some trade unions, and that we avoided discussion. KMcL wrote:
“Before the documents were written I spoke to TS and outlined that I thought there was a need to go into post election tactics in the conference material. In particular, that if we held the balance of power, it might be necessary to vote to allow a SF led anti-establishment government come to power.
Later in February, I had a long and comprehensive discussion with NM, I think it was close to an hour and a half in duration. I specifically raised and gave some emphasis to the situation with R2W and said that we had to watch it as, with a number of unions possibly involved, it could have significance and be complicating.
On February 18, TS and NM were sent an email which included a slightly unfinished version of the Southern political document. In the short covering email I say, regarding the couple of sections still to be included, “The second is a section on the political initiative that the unions connected to R2W are taking and on the potential development of new, specifically reformist and conservative forces. I wanted to discuss these issues a bit on Friday at the REC before concluding that text.”
In the document attached in that email, where the insert on R2W was to be included there was large writing saying, “Insert on the possibility, whys and wherefores of the unions in R2W taking a political initiative”.
On February 21, TS and NM were sent the finished document that was to be considered at NC a week later, a full section on the possible R2W/union initiative was included. On February 27, NM sent a message saying he’d read the southern political document, that he had no big points to add and that basically agreed with it.
So a month before the Euro Bureau, the comrades had read a document that included a very developed commentary not just on tactics re the next government, but on our approach to SF. At that discussion to resolve issues re “communication”, which took place a number of weeks after the Euro Bureau, the exchanges regarding communication lasted maybe 15 or 20 minutes. Then there was agreement about how often comrades should talk to one another.
Indications of differences on Sinn Fein
The truth is that an issue of supposed “communication” was a fig leaf to hide a significant political differences in regard to SF. However, the IS comrades did not openly raise their actual differences. Inevitably, as the differences weren’t discussed and resolved, they persisted. They resurfaced in the draft documents for the World Congress later in the year, in formulations regarding a possible alternative government lead by Sinn Fein.
Comrades from Ireland asked for changes in a number of paragraphs in the draft. The changes were made but again, without any real discussion. A particular paragraph from the draft world document written by the IS said:
“203) Notwithstanding the complications, our party in the South has indicated that it will give general support and not stand in the way of a left alliance coming to power to replace the discredited right-wing government. However, we would not enter such a government, which would remain within the framework of capitalism, as already indicated by the politics of Sinn Fein and their possible collaborators. If we and others have sufficient weight – the polls currently put the AAA and People Before Profit on 8 to 10% – then we would advocate giving critical support from outside, with votes on a case by case basis.”
There are a number of problems with this, but in particular, referring in a publicly issued document to a possible government led by Sinn Fein as “a left alliance”, or saying that we’d give “general support” or “critical support” to it were serious problems, particularly for our work in the North because of the sectarian role they play.
Some issues existed in the leadership in Ireland between the PM and the rest of the NEC regarding how to take up SF. These reflected a different assessment of SF, with PM tending towards what the comrades considered to be a softer criticism.
It became clear subsequently that around this time senior IS comrades were also discussing with PM, including what approach should be adopted to SF. In recent months TS has also stated that he spoke to PM on a number of occasions during the 2016 general election campaign, something that didn’t happen with the longer standing IEC comrades.
Not long after the 2016 General Election, DB became responsible for liaising with the southern region for the IS, and since then, political contact between the senior members of the IS and the longer standing comrades of the Irish section has been very limited, restricted mainly to CWI business or specific issues as they arose. In the year running to last September, when relations definitively broke down, there was an identifiable increase in the number of fractious interactions. In June / July 2018 alone, there were difficult exchanges on a number of issues.
June 2018: A call between TS, HS, PT and DB on one end and KMcL on the other, discussed the CWI School agenda, but then without prior notice went onto discuss the major article that the Irish comrades had written reviewing the referendum campaign and a shorter article that a comrade, who had joined in Ireland but moved to London, had written on the referendum for the England and Wales paper. Some of the comrades complained that the Irish article (because it mentioned Ruth C five times in its 3,000 words), came across like a “a cult of personality” piece. Comrades also objected that it mentioned a light hearted letter to The Irish Times which advocated that a statue be erected to RC in Dublin. Regarding the other article, comrades asked if leading comrades in Ireland had pushed the newer comrade to complain about the editing of her article as a way of making a political criticism of the position of the England and Wales comrades; that it would be better if the Irish leadership just contacted the leading England and Wales comrades themselves if they had an issue. There was no basis to this notion.
In the course of a weekend England and Wales NC in June 2018, PT asked SB were we arguing that there are now two nations in Ireland on the basis of the introduction to PH’s book Common History, Common Struggle. The book puts forward the position we outlined in the mid 1990s, for a socialist Ireland on a unitary basis, but that Protestants couldn’t be coerced and to concretise that, that the possibility of a separate socialist state for Protestants could be raised to allay fears.
July 2018: MB is contacted by TS about speaking at the rally at the CWI School in Barcelona, the speech is to deal with the NQ in Ireland and the abortion campaign. MB responded saying that in the context of the abortion victory that RC should be the speaker. The IS separately discussed this with PM, who also suggested RC. IEC members, KMcL, LF or SB were not contacted about this. The IS eventually asked RC to speak.
Who was really fighting opportunism?
It is ironic that the IS is strongly accusing us of opportunist Mandelite liquidationism. The IS dismissed our numerous attempts to discuss the impact that the mass work and public positions were having on the consciousness and revolutionary integrity of the party. These are issues that the Irish section has raised consistently at IEC meetings, but also in detail with IS members in individual discussions. However, the IS comrades didn’t engage, either because they completely underestimated the actual pressure and / or thought it could be easily remedied. Or perhaps the comrades didn’t want to fully acknowledge such dangers connected to having public positions as it went against the positive portrayal of winning such public positions which the IS comrades trumpeted at CWI events.
It is nearly 30 years since JH was elected as an “Independent Labour” councillor in 1991. However, the pressure from the pull of mass work really materialised during our first water charges battle, 1994 to 1996, and from electoral work in the run in to the general election in 1997. There is no doubt that we significantly underestimated the pressure, as it isn’t always reflected in a clear and tangible way. However, after a while, the effects on the party could be seen and felt.
This wasn’t mainly in regard to comrades breaking with a revolutionary programme, though of course that did happen with DC and JC in the early 2000’s and CD in 2012. The more debilitating impact was a general looseness and diminishing of consciousness about building and developing a revolutionary party.
Serious overheads of successful mass work
Success in the mass work and campaigns, which reflected the strength of a fighting and revolutionary approach, created an appetite and focus among comrades to look for the next issue to fight on. It sometimes seemed if our natural state was to be in a heightened active and mass campaign, and if this didn’t exist, there was a tendency among comrades to try to replicate such conditions.
This dovetailed with building a base for electoral work, where taking up issues and developing a record of fighting on issues can also be a vital in winning votes. This issue-based focus also tends towards the immediate, the latest daily event or weekly development, whether that’s reflected in a pressure to campaign or intervene on issues or with the media, or with the media intervening and placing demands on our comrades.
Mass campaigning work and the related development of electoral work, decisively challenged the dynamic and consciousness in the party. In the past the key yardsticks to judge success for the organisation were; the political level of the comrades and whether it was moving forward; the party building consciousness of the members; an urgency in getting contacts and recruitment; whether we were demonstrating the ability to explain our ideas to workers and youth; the conscious integration and consolidation of new members into active members; the training and education of comrades into cadre through active interventions, reviews, and political and theoretical discussion; financial sacrifice and fundraising; and identifying with the party, in particular by selling the paper.
These essential attributes have been diminished. The old yardsticks were replaced for many comrades with new yardsticks and tasks like building the geographical base of support of the party; building a base of potential voters; establishing a fighting record on issues; a tendency to focus on the general or average consciousness, rather that the most open or advanced sections, and a focus on winning and holding positions.
There can be huge appreciation from working-class people for our efforts. However, that often also turns into expectation and more pressure for us to continue to fill the vacuum of the lack of fighting organisations for the working class. Likewise, a successful record in struggle makes us prime targets for the political establishment, the media and the state whose efforts to undermine our position has to be resisted.
A belief can emerge that if we have an impact in a broad sense politically, that growth of the party will come; among comrades under pressure at the cutting of the mass and electoral work, a view can develop that other comrades need do the recruitment and building – a dangerous “specialisation” that leads to a false separation of tasks and potential divisions in the party.
Growth is never automatic, but the need to fight for it gets diminished. Putting the time and work into consolidating and developing the cadre can also be cut across by the pressure of immediate tasks. As well, the existence of finance coming from the public positions undoubtedly makes it more difficult to maintain a consciousness of sacrifice in subs and fundraising.
Mass and electoral work can be successfully combined with party building work, but it isn’t easy in the conditions that have pertained in the last twenty years and needs a strong and developed cadre. We have tried to strike the right balance between the mass work and party building, basing ourselves on the idea that we need to do both.
However, the absence of fighting organisations for the working class and lower levels of political consciousness, can also mean that there seems to be no end of issues that people want us to take up, or time consuming individual case work from constituents. The political vacuum and individual hardships mentioned above, mean the mass work has tended to act like a black hole that pulls the whole organisation towards it. This sets an agenda of political short-termism.
Impossible balancing act
This has created the reality that the party has been deficient in having the time and space for the proper consolidation of comrades into experienced and rounded out cadre, which requires patient work and the knitting together of comrades and tasks into the political fabric that holds a strong organisation together.
As a result, it has been very difficult over many years to develop a strong, developing and growing a Branch Committee layer and flowing from that there has been a gap, an absence of a strong middle cadre in the party. The diminishing of party building consciousness has affected the whole of the party, including the leadership. The development of the leadership has also been impacted upon, because there hasn’t enough been an upward pressure on the leading bodies from a stronger political and experienced cadre throughout the party.
The mass, electoral and public side of the work has developed, but for the reasons mentioned, the party membership and cadre hasn’t matched it. In that sense the mass / electoral position could be seen as too big for the party, like a bubble, that creates a distortion in the work.
There was also a tendency over years, for more and more comrades from the leadership to lead the mass work and in turn step into public representative positions. This again is linked to the successes of the mass work and our ability to turn that into electoral and political gains, in the context of the opportunities posed by the nature of the electoral system. This has resulted in the changing of comrades’ roles. In addition, with more TD positions, there is a need for more comrades to become support staff to back up the public reps, either leaving normal jobs or shifting from other more internal based full time work.
This tension between fundamental aspects of the work has been a key issue over the last twenty years. It became extremely heightened between 2012 and 2014. This was the period of intense work related to the establishment of the household and property tax campaign on a national basis, through to the local and European elections in May 2014.
The meter on the household tax started on the first day of January, with the first bills to be paid by the 31 March 2012. That meant we had three months to try to establish mass non-payment of the household tax right throughout the country. We knew this was going to be a huge undertaking but we also knew that there was a real desire on behalf of a mass of people to fight these taxes and austerity.
We also knew that our attempts to initiate a mass revolt and movement would place huge pressure on the party and potentially compound even further the problems we had regarding party building consciousness and the structure and strength of the party itself. But we made the calculated decision, mentioned in the trade union section in Part 1, that it was correct to try assist in the development of struggle against the bail-out austerity, as otherwise there was a chance the working class could suffer a debilitating set back, i.e. defeat on key issues without a struggle even being attempted.
However, we tried to organise to ensure that the integrity of the party work was maintained, but also that the party grew significantly from the mass struggle. In preparing the run in to this intense period, the party held an all members meeting in Dublin on Sunday 4 September 2011. The agenda was:
- The Global Crisis and Turmoil (report)11 am – 11.45am
- Perspectives and our approach to the Household Tax (discussion)11.45pm – 1pm
- Fighting the Tax and Building the Party (discussion) 3.15-5pm
We attempted to have very clear division of responsibility, with specific comrades allocated for initiating and establishing the campaign and then other BC comrades responsible for maintaining and building the party. Included in that was a definite approach of trying to intervene and build from the campaign activity. Point 78 of a special document we issued at the time said:
“Finally, we need to resolve right at the start that this is a campaign which will build and enhance our organisation. A campaign like this can put a party such as ours under real strain as resources are diverted from party building to fighting the campaign. On the other hand, if steps are taken to defend party building activity such a campaign can provide members with challenges that assist them in emerging as cadres, connect the party with a wide layer of militant working-class people, strengthen the party’s standing in the working class and see the party’s active base grow considerably.”
At the same time a circular sent to branch organisers outlined the importance of the party intervention in the campaign. Its content included the following guidelines:
- …Socialist Party recruitment leaflet that will be produced centrally is distributed at each meeting…
- The allocation of comrades in advance to contribute on the key political issues
- The paper is sold and in particular comrades making contributions should have the paper and be a focus for people as the meeting ends
- Cards to be filled in with people’s details who are interested in the Socialist Party are used by the paper sellers.
At that time with the Campaign Against Household and Waters Taxes (CAHWT), and later in our AAA work, in the launching of Solidarity in 2016 and with our JobstownNotGuilty campaign, we have always had the approach of trying to involve people in the work and create activists. The movement that unfolded in early 2012 was actually characterised by its spontaneous and unorganised nature. We achieved very high levels of non-payment and so the struggle against these charges and austerity was well and truly joined. However, the levels of activity fell away drastically after Match 2012, to such a degree that we hadn’t anticipated and this placed an even greater burden on the members of our party than we had imagined.
Progressively, even though we fought to keep the division of tasks that had been agreed, organising regular special schools for the branch committees etc, this mass campaigning dominated the work of the party. All the structures of the party still functioned fully and the branches met, but we weren’t able to build as we would have liked as there were complications with consciousness and more of an anti-party attitude than we anticipated. On the other hand more and more of the comrades responsible for building the party mistook their role, stepped out of their designated roles or by default were pulled into the mass work.
We took a decision, that after the Local and European Elections in May 2014, there would be a much more fundamental shift towards internal party building; not slight tweaking but a major shift in consciousness was necessary. There was formal agreement on this but even in the leading bodies, there was still an underestimation of the problem, and so an underestimation of the shift that was necessary. That was itself an indication of the effect of the mass and public work on the leadership.
However, this turn was cut across by the eruption in working class activity in late summer and early autumn 2014, with the water charges movement. This was an exceptional development and the party felt it had to embrace this mass active movement from below, which had been the missing element in the previous years, particularly given that there had by then been six years of austerity without an effective knock back of the government’s relentless attack.
This was a difficult decision for the party that was already showing the effects of exhaustion, but it was the correct thing to do, as a revolutionary party can’t turn its back on a mass working class revolt. However it was inevitably going to exacerbate the tension between the different aspects of the work. We excelled in the water charges movement, winning the DSW By-Election in October 2014, which helped propel us into its leadership, along with our organising of mass non-payment around the country from then on.
That put us on a new cycle of even more intense mass and electoral work, and it was only in the middle of 2016, that a more significant and decisive shift to party building could be taken after water charges had been defeated. There have been suggestions that the party in Ireland is politically sectarian. Our decision to throw everything into the water charges movement in late 2014, in the very difficult circumstances that existed, is proof that in terms of the working class and real movements, the party is anything but sectarian.
This is the reality of our recent history. The understanding that the party needed a fundamental change in approach was contained in the email mentioned earlier that was sent to PS from 9 March 2016. It was also alluded to in the section report to the World Congress in January 2016, which stated that, “Whatever the outcome of the election, the party has agreed that there will also have to be a rebalancing of the work and resources… This shift has been necessary for some time but we were not able to implement it after the local and European elections in 2014 as planned… it is crucial that there is no more delay in developing and allocating additional resources, including experienced comrades, to the vital tasks of recruitment and politically strengthening the party.”
IS – says nothing, doesn’t engage
Crucially, these issues, the conflict between the mass / public work and the building of the party, featured in many individual conversations and discussions and formal meetings with IS members. To the problem that comrades vital to defending and developing the internal work were been dragged into the black hole of the mass work because the tasks were beyond the comrades already allocated, the standard response was that comrades already struggling with the burden of mass work, should be asked to take more responsibility.
This illustrated a superficial understanding of the actual reality of the pressure and the very demanding nature of the mass work in the current conditions. It represented a focus on form over substance. The issue was that there was a fundamental imbalance in the work, given our limited cadre, and that the approach to and the amount of mass work needed to be reduced. There was resistance to this idea.
As mentioned, in the post-election meeting London in 2016 these issues were brought out once again by the Irish comrades in a clear and formal way. We freely volunteered that there was huge opportunist pressure on the party, but the overwhelming and most serious threat was not the one being focused on and overstated by the IS comrades regarding political programme as such. It was from the imbalance and over focus on mass and electoral work and its impact in undermining the political level and the consciousness of the methods necessary to build the revolutionary party.
We raised these issues because we wanted to use the occasion to bring out the real and essential battle that the party in the South had been grappling with for years. Concrete examples were given to back up our assessment. It was also comrades from Ireland who were the ones to mention first our former organisation in Scotland. While we said it fundamentally was different, we said that from afar and superficially, the situation could look similar. We did this to try to register with the IS that unless there was an important shift in our work, that the revolutionary character of the party could come under threat.
We sought to discuss these real, essential problems when we met with the IS in London. Not only did the IS comrades not engage on these issues at all, they dismissed them. Perhaps engaging didn’t fit the negative view that senior IS comrades already had developed about the Irish leadership and its responsibility for the problems in the section. The comrades preferred to just repeat their previous points, which painted a picture of us buckling to opportunism in the election. This exchange was very significant for the majority comrades from Ireland, as it raised the possibility that the IS either couldn’t see or wilfully chose to ignore, the issues that were our defining experience in the party for years. This discussion illustrated that PM agreed with the view of the IS regarding the leadership buckling to opportunist pressure.
Now, two and a half years later, when it suits them to try to undermine leading comrades in Ireland, the IS finds a trend towards liquidationism. The irony is this accusation is being made, not just against comrades who have being fighting a battle on these issues for years, but the accusers are the ones who dismissed the danger only a couple of years previously. They were wrong in their estimation then and they are wrong in their estimation now.
Towards a confrontation
In 2015 the IS comrades avoided a real discussion on the character, base and perspectives for SF and how SF should be taken up. Fundamentally a similar situation happened on the issue of the national question in Ireland. IS members did participate in an Irish NC discussion on this issue in late 2017, but that wasn’t the kind of comprehensive, prepared discussion and review between NEC comrades and the IS that was necessary. In London last September, TS said this long overdue discussion hadn’t taken place yet because there hadn’t been the time for PT to prepare. However, the national question in Ireland is ticking towards a critical stage.
Likewise, the fact that there was just one article on the CWI website on our work on abortion and women in the five years from November 2012 to November 2017, speaks volumes to the fact that the IS Majority had a fundamental problem with this work. The extent of their differences was reflected in the document that the IS eventually produced in October 2018, “Women’s Oppression and ID Politics – Our approach in Ireland and Internationally”. There was no discussion on the differences re this work which was ongoing for years prior to this.
We don’t know exactly why the IS retreated from its approach as the leading body in the International to discuss issues properly. However it seems that the IS comrades, who have referred to the Irish leadership as “obdurate” (according to the Cambridge dictionary meaning “a person who refuses to change their mind, or someone or something that is difficult to deal with or change”), moved from having differences on some issues increasing towards a developed opposition. We believe that there has been a negative sentiment about the Irish organisation and a mindset that the comrades in Ireland were a problem that had to be dealt with. This approach, instead of engaging in serious discussion, should ring alarm bells as a serious development, not in the tradition of the CWI.
Essentially there were only very brief exchanges on issues like Sinn Fein and the national question, often in relation to material that was being produced. There was agreement on aspects and some formulations but there was also disagreement on other aspects and discussions tended to be unsatisfactory. We wondered if there was an underlying difference and that’s why we favoured a more rounded out and developed discussion. In the meantime, we got on with the work and interventions. We still aren’t sure what the views of the comrades are re the national question. But if the comrades had serious concerns with what we were doing and saying on that or regarding the women’s movement, they should have come back and had a proper discussion. In fact the only way to judge or prove whether the Irish organisation was obdurate and just “refusing to change their mind” is to engage and have the discussion.
Rather than have an open political discussion, we believe the IS comrades drew conclusions based on impressions from afar, inaccurate information and even hearsay. The reality seems to be that the IS moved into political opposition to the Irish NEC because we wouldn’t, as a matter of course, accept or go along with their lines of argument.
In contrast, we think IS comrades have discussed their negative views of the political positions adopted by the NEC with some other leading comrades in the Irish organisation, comrades who may have been more open to the IS’s political position and their opposition to the political position of the NEC. Undoubtedly this interaction affected the situation and the dynamic within the Irish leadership..
Just a couple of months after an historic victory, achieving abortion rights, and using the contributions of some young comrades from Ireland at the CWI School as a pretext, the IS decided to confront and attack the NEC majority, starting with the question of Identity Politics and global women’s movement. We have to state that we think it is really poor that the contributions of young and new members, at a school of learning, has been used in this way and is particularly uncomradely and not good practice.
We feared that IS members had imbalanced opinions of the Irish organisation but we had no real idea of the extent of this, which has become clearer over the last months. We had thought that it may have been an imbalance based on the opinions of one or two IS comrades, or a take on things that flowed from imbalanced information about the work they had been given. We hoped that it would change over time. However, the opposite has happened.
The [breach] and factional activity discovered by accident
This is the context in which very quickly after getting the report on the [breach of protocol] senior IS members had their minds made up on all the issues. The meetings of the IS members, PM and the other NEC comrades in London and Dublin in September were noteworthy and indeed shocking for the spread and depth of criticisms and attacks that were made, not just regarding the investigation, but particularly about the character of the Irish organisation and the leadership. As JH said it was “a full frontal attack”.
Just some of the points raised again and again in these discussions included:
There was a whispering campaign against PM orchestrated by the leadership;
The investigation was an attempt to get rid of PM;
The investigation was not aimed at proving a [breach] and who was responsible but of proving the existence of an undisclosed opposition grouping;
The investigation was in a sense worse than the [breach];
The morals of the five comrades who processed the investigation were questioned;
A precedent has been set and the comrades would now feel free to engage in [breaches] in the future of anyone they suspected of being politically opposed to the leadership;
The leadership is extremely defensive, politically unconfident and has an approach of avoiding discussion on issues, including Identity Politics;
There was an “operation” of political surveillance for two months of comrades with political differences;
The comrades even raised at one point that we may have been involved in a year long operation of political surveillance, waiting for the comrades to make mistakes;
A clique runs the Irish organisation, who shun and ostracise anyone who raises differences;
The party is fundamentally undemocratic, with an unhealthy atmosphere and culture.
IS offensive – no attempt at resolution
The approach of the IS Majority was not about trying to understand what actually had happened. Instead, they and PM came together in an alliance.
The IS Majority undoubtedly considered that some of the information that came out as a by-product of the investigation was embarrassing for PM. So the IS comrades took the position that they would consciously diminish and discard these points and instead would scandalise and sensationalise the investigation as the main problem and contend that it was symptomatic of a rotten organisation. PM in turn backed up and went along with the generalised, fundamental criticisms and characterisation of the party and of the roles some of the leading comrades in Ireland. When after a full discussion, the NC in Ireland rejected these positions of the IS comrades and PM, and their characterisations of the investigation and leading comrades, then they questioned the nature of the discussion and debate, and the approach of the NC itself. Unfortunately things have continued on this escalating path since.
The reality of the [breach] and undisclosed factional activity
The [breach] was a serious attack against the party, mainly directed against senior NEC comrades. It was undertaken by a comrade who indicated in notes he’d written, that he was also involved in the coming together of an undisclosed opposition grouping.
The notes were bullet points under six subheads, with a general headline “Questions for Discussion on Strategy”. The six subheads were: Issues; Goal; People; Strengths; Events and Strategy.
The notes referred to: “Sectarian attitude to other forces (PBP, T4Y, SF)”; “Sol-PBP proposals” as well as “Sinn Fein proposals”. Some of the options mentioned under “Goal” were, “Change some comrades views, maintain as opposition for a long time in hope to evolve to better culture over time” and “Change some comrades views, leave with them, form something new, but probably still with certain orientation to SP and CWI”.
The notes seem to identify some comrades in the broad leadership of the party who may be orientated towards. Under “Strategy”, some of the options mentioned included, “point out problems, associate with dissent”, “Spark debate over defensive leadership, highlight more examples, push reviews and resolutions. Polarise more, hopefully spark individual discussions etc”. Another comment under strategy was, “Blow up using emails etc, proof of factional operating etc”.
This grouping, that was beginning to operate, clearly knew the negative position of the IS regarding the political work here and regarding leading comrades in Ireland. Very significantly this was indicated by the first item listed under the heading of “Strengths” for the grouping, which said “CWI positioned”.
Notwithstanding this information, in the meetings mentioned above there wasn’t any criticism of PM by the IS, except once by DB at the meeting in London, which was the only meeting he attended, despite that fact that he was the liaison with the south from the IS. There was condemnation of the actions of the comrade responsible for the [breach], but that was combined with the posing of questions by IS comrades as to why did he feel the he need to do it. In reality this was an attempt to say that there was a context or some justification for his actions.
This extremely soft view of the actions of a comrade who had attacked the party became something more when an IS comrade argued at the NC in Dublin in October that the NC should consider that this comrade doesn’t step down as a representative of the party, notwithstanding the huge issue of political trust.
There wasn’t even an attempt by the IS to be even handed or to strike a balance. As early as at the meeting in London on 13/14 September, the position adopted by the IS regarding the [breach], the investigation and the nature of the Irish organisation was so exaggerated and developed in its bias that it must have related more to a pre-existing and deep-seated opposition to the political position of the party and of leading comrades in Ireland and the work of the section, and not a reflection of a genuine assessment of the facts of the situation. Subsequently this suspicion and our worst fears have been confirmed by comments by IS members DB and CG, who have come out against the divisive and destructive approach of the IS majority.
The IS Majority and PM have attempted to make an issue out of the fact that the five comrades at the meeting in London supposedly spurned a reasonable motion that the IS comrades put forward at the end of that meeting. They even imply that if we just had accepted that motion that all that has subsequently developed could have been avoided. It’s like they are trying to blame us for their excesses.
The motion in London made no mention of the information that clearly pointed to undisclosed factional activity on behalf of NEC and NC comrades in Ireland. The IS has always tried to ignore this aspect, because it speaks negatively of comrades that they are politically connected to. So much have the comrades tried to hide this that the NEC majority had to set the record straight at some of the meetings, showing what was indicated in the notes and the approach of some of the comrades, including PM sending confidential information from the NEC and from the IS to the comrade who engaged in the [breach].
The fact that we have had to point to the factionally activity to cut across the IS’s attempts to ignore it, later became used to claim that the investigation was mainly about trying to find an opposition grouping. A feature of this dispute is that when you answer a point, the IS comrades just move the goalposts and start all over again.
The notes written by the comrade who organised the [breach] are so clear and developed and in tune with things that have happened since, that we believed it was clear that a grouping had come into existence and was operating. For us, this was established on the basis of this information. Finding a grouping was not the focus or the content of the investigation, as will be obvious if people look objectively at the detailed material produced about the investigation.
The statement put forward by the IS in London made no mention of factional activity or the leaking of confidential documentation or criticism of PM. More importantly, it would give the impression that there had been a robust but principled exchange of views at the meeting. That was not the nature of that meeting. The meeting was an offensive attack from the start to the finish by the IS and PM against the NEC majority and the Irish party. Our view was that it was inappropriate for the five comrades there to agree anything, that all that had happened and had been said, including the text of the motion, needed to be brought back and discussed at a meeting of the NEC. And that is what happened.
Genuine questions and criticisms
We draw a distinction between the genuine questions, points or criticisms raised over the investigation by comrades, and then the conscious sensationalism, exaggerations and distortions by IS Majority members and PM regarding it, which were part of a broader approach of challenging and confronting the NEC majority and the Irish section.
We are prepared to discuss these issues at length with comrades and we are confident that we will be able to allay concerns comrades may have regarding the investigation, which was an exceptional and difficult situation, and show it in a different light. We can’t do that fully in a document, but this will be part of the discussion over the next months.
However, we will make some comments on the main issue that has come up regarding the investigation – the combined issue of the time the investigation took and that it did not go through the NEC.
Inappropriate time delay
The idea put forward repeatedly, that we never accepted that there were any issues or mistakes with the investigation, is simply false. We accepted there were issues with the investigation in a phone call with IS members on Monday 10 September; in the introduction given by KMcL at the meeting in London on 13 September; at the NEC meeting in Dublin on 21 September; at the discussion and in the motion passed at the NC meeting on 13/14 October; and in the discussion and motion that was passed at the IEC meeting, which was partially written by the comrades from the NEC majority.
At the NC meeting in Dublin on 13/14 October, we accepted, while it was conducted in difficult circumstances and the comrades operated on a genuine basis, there were problems with a number of aspects of the process. We also explained that we understood their were serious questions that comrades went on holidays, thereby delaying the process. Further, KMcL outlined that we recognised also the particular knock on of this in the delay of this coming before the NEC, that if comrades hadn’t gone on their planned holidays or if the incident had been discovered at a different time of the year, the investigation would have taken two weeks or just over.
Confidentiality can be appropriate and necessary
It is not the case, either in the revolutionary or workers’ movements, that on all occasions when information emerges or an incident or potential incident occurs, that it must be immediately brought to a committee meeting or into a formal process in all instances. There are many instances when to do so can actually make the situation worse. Also, for example, in 1939 Trotsky advises the establishment of a small commission of comrades to operate in an “Extremely confidential” and with “absolute secrecy” in order to gather information on a possible GPU spy in the movement in Paris in 1939.
This isn’t about informality, it is a recognition that there can be instances where it may be appropriate that for a time information remains confidential, perhaps until it can be verified or to allow for the heat in a situation to cool. For the comrades involved in the investigation, it was always the case that these issues were going to be discussed and decided upon by the leading bodies of the party. The idea is being put forward by members of the IS Majority at debates and in discussions that the comrades who conducted the investigation wanted to keep the issues from the party, and that we had something to hide. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We expressed the opinion to TS and BL when we first met them on 8 September, that in our view there had to be sanctions against the comrade who engaged in the [breach], and clearly any such sanctions would clearly have to be discussed and agreed at the NC. We weren’t proposing anything regarding undisclosed factional activity or the leaking of confidential information. In that sense we were prepared to deal with those issues at the NEC, in conjunction with the IS. In this we were open to the idea that information and therefore the potential embarrassment for some comrades, would remain restricted. So much for trying to get rid of PM from the leadership.
At the end of the meeting in London on 13/14 September, it was the NEC majority who said that the information about everything, the [breach], the investigation and the position of the IS etc, should be immediately discussed by all the parties, with every member of the NC in Ireland. Just to remind comrades, it was the IS who wanted a group of five comrades in London to agree a statement, without any reference to a formal meeting of the Irish NEC.
The idea that the practice and spirit of democratic centralism being breached is the norm in the Irish organisation, that there is gross informality, is incorrect and baseless. It is being put forward to imply a fundamentally undemocratic approach, to paint a picture that there is a group of leading comrades who are a law unto themselves.
As the issues were extremely serious, the approach adopted was to keep the initial information confidential and not making any accusations until the information could be fully confirmed. If a group of respected comrades took two weeks to verify information, rather than the seven weeks that actually occurred because of holidays, the investigation may not have been seen as so controversial.
Now considering the situation on the basis of what has unfolded and been raised, if comrades feel a gap of two weeks was still too long, then obviously the alternatives need to be looked into. In such situations, all the NEC members, bar the comrade who had been named by the person responsible for the [breach], could have met and decided a course of action. It’s entirely possible that the conclusion from such a meeting would have been to have an investigation and produce a report, but it would have been the product of fuller discussion. Most probably the investigation would have been allocated to a subgroup of the NEC or some other authoritative comrades.
Comrades may say that even the exclusion of named comrades is inappropriate and that immediately all comrades on the NEC should have been informed and involved in a meeting to discuss the issue. Without making any accusations, clearly that would have involved the possibility that the person involved in the [breach] may be informed that there were suspicions of him, with the possibility that he would shut down access that we had to information, which he had given us, but was unaware of.
So immediately involving the whole NEC would potentially end the ability for the party to find out what had happened and to prove the [breach] and responsibility for it. In that instance there was a chance that the [breach] could have been denied but actually be maintained. This is what the IS argued should have happened.
At the NC meeting in Dublin in October 2018, the resolution that was passed incorporated an agreed amendment to the NEC motion. This amendment agreed that the question of how comrades should proceed in such circumstances in the future, including where there are potential issues involving comrades within the leadership, will be discussed in the review process that had previously been agreed into all aspects of how the party operates generally, between North and South, with a view to redrafting the party’s constitution. This review will be important and hopefully will help clarify the most appropriate ways of operating in such complex and difficult circumstances.
Informality and the reality of structures in the Irish organisation
The party in Ireland is probably more structured than any other section in the International. We have a myriad of different fields of work. We also operate in separate states and regions and have national structures that bring the party together. So, in the course of last year up until our NC in October, leading comrades in the south would have had 28 face to face meetings – day long meetings of either the NEC or the Southern REC all with agendas agreed well in advance; there were at least ten additional conference call NEC meetings; there were approximately 30 meetings of the Internal & Finance Committee between November 2017 and November 2018, and weekly meetings of the Dail Executive. There needs to be an improvement in minute taking and circulating. However, the idea that there isn’t formal democratic discussion and democratic check in the Irish organisation is simply ridiculous. There were seven NC meetings last year.
There can’t be double standards in the CWI
Such is the extent of the sensationalising and exaggerations of the IS regarding the investigation, that there was always a chance that their own comments might make them guilty of double standards. We have been condemned in the harshest of terms, however it transpires other comrades have adopted courses of action far more serious but aren’t the subject to the same approach, nor has this information been disclosed in this debate.
On the related issues of informality, confidentiality and democratic centralism: at the IEC meeting, in challenging the approach of the IS, a former member of the IS pointed out that during a previous dispute involving comrades in the US section, that there were meetings of members of the IS which one IS member wasn’t informed of because he was connected to the dispute. Today there are major issues regarding informality on the IS in the context that there is now a majority and a minority. In this period of major crisis, there has been one eight minute meeting of the IS since the IEC. In the early 2000s, it seemed the IS met regularly every few weeks but according to the report they presented in 2017, they met a total of five times that year. It seems the figures for 2018 would have been similar, if it hadn’t been for some crises. It seems there were 2 IS meetings related to issues regarding comrades from Venezuela; 14 meetings primarily or largely about Ireland, most of which took place towards the end of the year. Apart from these again it seems there were perhaps 4 to 6 meetings, most geared to the school or the IEC meetings. This raises about how the IS functions and certainly raises whether a lot of discussion and decisions are the product of a significant informality.
We want to reiterate that the investigation that we engaged in could not in any accurate or political way be described as a [breach], nor were we trying to prove the existence of an oppositional grouping in our investigation. However, information has emerged relating to somewhat similar situations, but where IS comrades responded to the actions undertaken by the investigating comrades in a completely different way. These include one where leading comrades in the Spanish section engaged in actions similar to the Irish comrades precisely to prove the existence of an oppositional grouping in their section which was operating in conjunction with the leadership of the IMT. We don’t have all the information but in discussions with Belgian comrades, the Spanish comrades themselves said that they became aware that there was a [breach] of their system because those who were doing it made a mistake and so the comrades had access and a capability to see what was happening. They availed of this access to get the proof of it and the proof that a group of members were working in an undisclosed political alliance with the leadership of the IMT. This was disclosed by JIR of the Spanish organisation to a delegation of the IS in the first formal meeting that took place between the CWI and the IR which began the process of our unification. In essence, this seems to be similar to what leading Irish comrades did, except the investigation in Ireland was not about proving an undisclosed grouping, but to prove a [breach]. PT actually described these actions as “marvellous” in the above mentioned meeting.
Because of the actions of the comrade who organised the [breach] in Ireland, we also had windows or an opportunity to see what he had done, and like the Spanish comrades we felt it was justified to avail of this opportunity to try to prove the [breach]. However, for this we have been condemned around the international and all sorts of accusations and lurid stories of Stalinistic style political surveillance, of an undemocratic and intolerant regime have been made. This approach has been led by the IS Majority, including an IS Majority comrade who referred to the action of the Spanish comrades as “marvellous”.
Real and difficult situations come up in the life of a revolutionary party. At the IEC, KMcL asked the comrades to be honest, consistent and balanced in their judgements, taking account of incidents that they know to have happened or which they may have been part of. We would imagine that there are more examples where comrades took courses of actions they considered necessary for safeguarding and defending the party. Unfortunately it seems that on the issues of confidentiality, democratic centralism and [breaches], the IS and the faction aren’t being consistent, but instead a double standard is in operation. This further speaks to the idea that the investigation is merely being used as part of a greater attack.
IS and faction twists what was agreed at the IEC
The IS Majority and the faction, including in their Platform statement and PT’s document “In Defence of a Working-class Orientation for the CWI”, tries to assert that there has been a cover up regarding the investigation; that IEC members from many sections have acted to shield the Irish leadership. They then use this accusation to place question marks over certain sections, in particular Belgium, Sweden, Greece and the US.
They are also turning reality on its head regarding the motions put forward at the IEC. This defies the discussions at the IEC, where there was considerable, developed and mature exchanges that went into all aspects of the work of the Irish section.
The IS Majority and Faction claim that a paragraph in the resolution agreed at the IEC was in some way anti-Irish leadership in its content. Their Platform statement says, and it is being repeated at debates, that knowledge of this paragraph was censored and kept from the broad membership of the CWI as part of an unprincipled and dishonest approach.
This is another accusation based on nothing solid and real. The IEC agreed to restrict the use of that specific paragraph in versions of the motion that are distributed beyond EC level in the sections. This was proposed and agreed for security reasons. The potential for the media and opponents to use information against us is regularly and correctly considered when producing sensitive material. This was agreed without major debate at the IEC.
However, this restriction only related to written material beyond EC level. There was no restriction on the use of any words or information in lead offs or verbal reportage. Responding to the attempt in the faction Platform to paint this security restriction as censorship and a cover up, the Irish NEC majority quickly advocated to the Congress Organising Committee that it be agreed that this paragraph would be fully available with a slight edit for security reasons. Unfortunately the accusation continues to be repeated.
The IS Majority and Faction are falsifying the approach taken at the Irish NC meeting held on 9/12/18. They are implying that knowledge of the resolution passed at the IEC was kept from the Irish NC. The Platform statement also criticises the Irish leadership for not “correcting” the position it adopted regarding the [breach] and investigation at its October meeting. They say that the resolution that was passed in October was contradicted by the resolution passed at the IEC, which is a higher body in the CWI than the NC. In fact the two resolutions are not contradictory, but complimentary.
Diversion to protect the IS Majority
Given their claims of people being shielded, it is ironic that the Faction is completely twisting of the content and spirit of the resolution passed as well as the discussions at the IEC in order to try hide the fact that a majority of the IEC came out decisively in opposition to the approach of the IS.
The motion put forward by the IS-led Faction at the IEC was defeated in favour of one proposed by the Greek comrades, written in conjunction with other IEC comrades. Even when the IS appropriated whole sections of the Greek motion into their own, the IEC still rejected their position.
It was clear that the majority of comrades rejected the position of the IS Majority and the Faction, both generally and in relation to the Irish section and its leadership. The passing of the Greek motion also reflected that the majority at the IEC felt that that motion, with the proposal for a Congress Organising Committee, was necessary to help ensure that the broad debate in the CWI be conducted on a fully democratic basis.
Here we quote the paragraph on Ireland that was contained in the IEC resolution in full, inclusive of the slight edit that the COC accepted. The meaning isn’t altered in any way.
“The IEC unreservedly condemns the [breach of protocol]. The IEC believes that the response of the leading Irish comrades, while rooted in genuine concern for safeguarding and defending the party, was deficient in a number of important aspects. The IEC feels there were mistakes, in particular the length of time that there wasn’t a formal democratic oversight by the NEC of the investigation; not to work through the holiday and conclude the investigation quickly to establish the acts; not to inform the IS in July. The IEC recognises that the leading comrades in Ireland accept these points.”
By passing this paragraph and motion the IEC accepted that the motivations of the comrades who undertook the investigation were to ‘safeguard and defend’ the party. This is completely contrary to the position argued by the IS and the Faction. The IEC resolution consciously included the issues or mistakes, so the lessons to be learned would be clear.
The paragraph in the IEC resolution also recognised that the Irish comrades genuinely accepted points that had flowed from the debate. This recognition was very important, as it is the consistent approach of the IS Majority to cast doubt over whether comrades accept points or mistakes, as it allows them raise the same criticisms against comrades again and again.
We think that for the majority at the IEC, the last line in the paragraph quoted above, indicated that comrades felt that the debate needed to move onto to the other key political and organisational issues. Some comrades have raised why didn’t the Irish NC pass the IEC motion when in met in December. Before that meeting, both the NEC majority and minority agreed that the IEC meeting would just be reported on and that there wouldn’t be any motions proposed. In reality there was full awareness of the content of the motion and acceptance of it, but in general comrades didn’t see the IEC and the NC motions are being contradictory. The issue of passing it never came, and it wasn’t seen as obvious as it would be take as read, that the IEC motion id the position of the CWI, including the Irish section. Again at the one day meeting on 13 January, we didn’t get through the full agenda, but at that stage there wasn’t a focus on the motion as a faction in ireland had just been declared. Don’t think anyone would have any problem with endorsing the IEC resolution at a future meeting, certainly not the NEC majority, who in part wrote the resolution.
The IEC resolution is in line with the Irish NC resolution and with points raised by NEC majority comrades in the different debates. In terms of issues and criticisms, both the NC and the IEC resolutions refer to the prolonged nature of the investigation, which is linked to the issue of NEC oversight. In the sum up at the NC in Dublin, KMcL raised the issue of holidays, and that is also one of the criticisms in the IEC resolution – that without going on holidays, the facts could have been established quickly.
The NC also said there were issues with how the discussions with the comrades were conducted, which wasn’t mentioned in the IEC resolution. The other difference is the reference to “not to inform the IS in July” in the IEC resolution, which wasn’t mentioned in the NC resolution. But, the inclusion of this formulation flowed from the sum up given by KMcL in the discussion on Ireland at the IEC. There KMcL raised if confronted with a similar situation in the future, of course we would do some things differently, including informing the IS. So the motion put forward at the IEC correctly reflected the discussion at the IEC.
There is no contradiction in the resolutions agreed at the Irish NC and at the IEC. They are along the same lines with one going a bit further than the other, reflecting the development of the discussion during the debates. Even that aspect, regarding informing the IS, was contained in outline form at the NC meeting in Dublin.
The question that was posed by the IS and PM at that Irish NC meeting as to why the IS wasn’t informed. We gave an explanation that some comrades may not have agreed with, but the explanation was credible. The key decision taken in mid July was that we needed to investigate the situation, that we had unclear and sketchy information. Not saying anything to anyone, including the IS was a by-product of that decision. It wasn’t that we took a proactive decision not to tell the IS. We were always going to tell the IS, when we had firm and definite information.
It wasn’t posed by anyone, but if the question had been posed at the NC in Dublin, as it was at the IEC, would you do the same again in a similar situation, or would you inform the IS, we would have answered that we would inform the IS.
The motion passed at the NC in Dublin did say that the NEC comrades acted in a democratic and principled manner. That was necessary as in the run up to that NC meeting the focus of the IS and PM was to say that the investigation was completely undemocratic, reflective of a rotten regime and undemocratic culture, that it constituted political surveillance and sets a extremely dangerous precedent etc. In this context, it was absolutely necessary that there was a rejection of these baseless accusations and the democracy in the party be specifically defended.
However, those lines of argument didn’t really feature in a major way at the IEC, the position that was emphasised was that leading comrades operated outside of the formal structures and fundamentally broke with democratic centralism. For the information of comrades, below is one of the relevant paragraph’s from the resolution passed at the NC in October:
“Some issues have been raised about aspects of the investigation, including concerns about the length of time it took. It was a mistake not to directly approach [deleted reference] for a discussion in
; notwithstanding that PM immediately agreed to meet without an explanation, he should have been explicitly told what the discussion was about, and not having a copy of the Confidential Report available for PM at the discussion was a mistake. However, while recognising issues with some details, the comrades operated in a principled and democratic fashion, and the investigation, mainly conducted in the latter part of August, was justified and was conducted in a careful and measured manner.”
The last paragraph of the resolution read:
“The NC believes the particulars of this controversy should be concluded by the decisions taken at this meeting. The NC believes the party needs to focus on its key interventions while implementing a programme of discussion and debate on the issues that have been raised for discussion, namely, Identity Politics, the United Front, programme, the Women’s Movement, the National Question, approach to party building, cadre development, structures and organisation, not exclusive of others issues, this would include written material. Reflecting issues that have come up in this discussion, the NC believes that the rights of members to meet and discuss outside of the formal structures and the right to establish factions should be featured in the constitutional review we have already agreed. Furthermore, possibilities for best procedures and approaches, including investigatory procedures, that should be taken in the future if potential differences or issues emerge within the leadership, or with individual members of the leadership, should also be part of that review to ensure the rights of comrades and the party are protected.”
More distortion and escalation – where next?
The final point on this aspect, the Platform makes complete fabrications regarding December’s Irish NC meeting in Dublin when it contends that knowledge of the resolution was withheld from the NC.
In the notice that was sent out for the meeting reference was made to the two different motions put forward at the IEC. The notice specifically said that hard copies of the motions would be at the NC for the comrades to read before the meeting. We didn’t distribute them electronically for security reasons. However, PM sent the motions to all NC members electronically, as well as some commentary on the IEC meeting, a number of days before the meeting. So any idea that NC comrades were not aware of the resolutions or hadn’t read them is completely wrong and the resolution featured in some contributions at the NC, including by KMcL.
The IS Majority took a decision to oppose the leadership of the Irish section. When informed of the
, the investigation, the information of factional activity and the leaking of confidential documentation which was embarrassing to PM, they decided to try to distort what had actually happened and use a fabricated version of the investigation as another issue to attack the Irish leadership on.
The demeaning of the decision and discussion at the Irish NC in October by the IS Majority was a further escalation. So too was their reaction to the letter from EB and PAW in advance of the IEC; and their change of the agenda of the IEC and the talk of a split and comments like“these people are on their way out”. Unfortunately, through the IEC and after, the IS are continuing to raise the stakes, to polarise the situation. This, and the sustained but unfounded criticism of the Greek comrades in particular by PT, raises questions and fears as to where this approach will lead.
Discussing all the issues in Ireland
There was always going to be full discussion of all the issues flowing from the IEC meeting, but now a faction has also been established in Ireland.
We know from the statement that the faction in Ireland as a body doesn’t support the International faction. Whether some of the comrades who initiated the faction support the IS and the International faction to one degree or another isn’t clear.
The faction in Ireland, and all the rights of all the comrades in it, will of course be fully facilitated and the discussions in the Party will be conducted on a fully democratic basis. Undoubtedly everyone also agrees that the work of the Party must still proceed. That doesn’t just relate to the important electoral challenges that face us both North and South over the next months, but also in regard to the crucial task of recruiting and consolidating and building the members of the party in the months ahead.
Whatever issues raised by whoever, whether it be about the international situation or the issues in Ireland, they must be heard, discussed and dealt with appropriately. If, and we are very hopeful, a constructive approach is adopted by all comrades, that the Party will definitely be strengthened by the debates and in a better position to move forward. It is vital in particular, that the real and important issues or criticisms that comrades make about the situation here and the work of the Party are in no way relegated because of the acute seriousness and dangers contained in the way that the international dispute seems to be unfolding.
In that sense the issues and concerns of comrades here have their own independent significance and must be treated as such.
Are the two factions connected?
At the same time, it is inevitable, that there are crossovers between the situation in Ireland and in the CWI internationally. That is particularly the case when events here in a sense acted as a spark that opened up the crisis at the IEC meeting. These issues particularly involved the IS and PM on one side and the NEC majority on the other. As mentioned earlier, there was an effective alliance between the IS and PM in regard to the [breach] and the investigation for all the time from early September to the IEC. With the comrades having fundamentally similar positions regarding the breach, the leaking of documents, the investigation, the undemocratic nature of the party and other issues that were listed above.
Obviously comrades who are members of the faction are members of the faction because they agree with the points that are being point forward and not necessarily everything that the comrades who initiated the faction – PM, DM and FO’L – stand for and have put forward at recent meetings. The same in regard to having a connection to the IS and the international faction. The statement issued by the faction contains minimal criticisms of the IS politically and no criticisms of the way the IS has intervened into the section, at the NC meetings and so on.
Comrades PM and FO’L have been connected to the IS in the course of recent events. On the same weekend that the comrades announced that there would be a faction, PS, a leading member of the International faction, out of courtesy sent the following brief email:
Hope you are well.
I just want to let you and the NEC know as a courtesy that I’m in Ireland for a couple of days discussing with comrades, including Fiona and Paul on the international faction platform as they requested.
We think that the political influence of the IS and the faction is reflected in the position of the comrades have argued for at recent meetings, in regard to the Party here and its attitude and relationship to the working class, the trade unions and even work on women. Both PM and FO’L spoke at the debate at the IEC on Women and Identity Politics, tending to back up the position and criticisms of the IS regarding the work on abortion and women here.
We genuinely hope that the comrades will review their position in regard to the international struggle that has opened up inside the CWI, and will come out decisively against the polarising and divisive approach that have been adopted by the IS regarding the Irish section, now other sections and the CWI generally.
No ‘Mandelite’ Liquidation of the Party – the struggle to build a revolutionary party and the Irish section of the CWI
Point 25 of the International faction Platform statement says the Irish section is in the process of being liquidated as a revolutionary organisation. This is being done in a Mandelite fashion, which, in his document from 15 January, PT pinpoints as “substantial concessions…on identity politics, the abandonment of the need for a revolutionary organisation based upon the movement of the working class and the internal regime and democracy of the revolutionary party…revolutionary programme and perspectives.”
Earlier we quoted both our 2017 and 2018 perspectives documents, written long before the current accusations. They talk about possible circumstances where the potential to take on the bureaucracy in the unions could improve, but also about the need to put our trade union on “a more systematic basis”. Obviously it would make no sense to highlight a discussion on these issues if we had taken a decisive turning away from the trade unions.
Here and in other material, we have dealt with our battle against identity politics, issues of programme, and a substantial section of Part 1 of this document has dealt with our focus and orientation to the trade unions and the working class, which is not a weakness but a strength of the Irish section. We will come back in a more developed way to programme in later material, but for now we will concentrate on the party in Ireland and party building.
So here we will touch on the other issues cited regarding the party. Point 10 of the Platform refers to ROSA as “the comrades’ socialist feminist platform”. Unfortunately, this indicates a wrong understanding of what ROSA is and its role. We established ROSA as we had a perspective that an important new women’s movement could and would emerge, and we consciously established ROSA to try to build the socialist feminist wing of that movement. Within that, we had a perspective that there would be important potential to build the revolutionary party from the best forces within it.
Solidarity and ROSA are not fronts for the party. There isn’t a hesitation or nervousness of the party to identify as the Socialist Party, there was never any decision to “dip” the profile of the party. Inherent in the dual task, which the CWI accepts as part of its approach, is that we would be part of broader entities from time to time, or for longer periods, depending on the circumstances.
Solidarity (formerly the AAA), was initiated in 2013 in an attempt to give hundreds and potentially thousands of activists who had gotten involved in the CAHWT campaign, a political, fighting banner / campaign to maintain and develop their activity, and potentially be a step on the path towards a new workers’ party.
Over the last two years, it is comrades from the NEC Majority who have raised that even though there are very good activists in Solidarity in some areas, that Solidarity hasn’t developed as we would have liked. Comrades from the NEC Majority have raised in that context the idea of Solidarity reducing its status to, for example to a banner or platform that popularises why there needs to be a new party mass party for the working class, needs to be discussed. If it was felt that there wasn’t a prospect for it to develop, then that would necessitate an honest discussion with our valued comrades and fellow activists in Solidarity as to what is the best way forward.
ROSA is a different kind of initiative again. It is open to all who agree with its basic political position, contained in its fifteen point programme, but is geared towards the radicalised layers of young people, women in particular. ROSA has been able to make interventions and get levels of involvement in some of its initiatives far beyond anything that the party could achieve, and in doing this has had an impact in society. Many see themselves as part of ROSA, and it is viewed extremely positive and so it is a huge asset.
These initiatives were taken because we thought they could represent important steps forward both in fighting on the issues affecting the working class and the youth, helping them to get organised and crucially in creating a new periphery for the party to intervene into.
This reasoning puts the weaknesses of the party’s profile in context. In all initiatives it’s a question of what you gain but also what you lose. If you initiate broader groups or campaigns, it stands to reason that you won’t be able to do as much activity as you previously did in your own name.
If some comrades have a predisposition to oppose such broader work, inevitably there’s is nothing we can say that will justify why there may be less work in the name of the party than there may have been in 2014 or in 2009 for instance. But such broader work is an inevitable part of building the revolutionary party. On the other hand, the party profile is extremely high in Solidarity and ROSA, but there are and always have been separate party activities and relative to other sections of the CWI, the Socialist Party has a high profile in Irish society, though undoubtedly we need to be more conscious of pushing it on all occasions. If, through discussion, it is agreed to alter the situation with Solidarity, that would obviously create an opportunity to increase the Party profile. Comrades from the NEC majority have raised about standing in the Euro Elections in Dublin as the Party and not as Solidarity.
Full timers & Party Apparatus in the South
Having a professional approach to revolutionary work, indeed having professional revolutionaries, including full timers, is an integral part of the revolutionary traditions set down by Lenin. The issue of the number of comrades in Ireland who work full or part time doing political work in the South, has been brought into this debate in a negative and crude way to critique the NEC Majority. Of course there can be issues and dangers with full timers and an apparatus, but the way this has been presented tends to reflect an abstract not an actual threat, and a cynical view of full timers, rather than the reality that exists inside the organisation in Ireland.
The comrades try to give the impression that there is a huge number of full timers in Ireland, comparative to the size of the membership and other sections of the CWI. The idea is advanced, that such a large bloc of full timers inevitably undermines democracy because the comrades will tend to adopt the position of the leading bodies. It is also argued that the number of fulltimers answers any point we make about a lack of cadre for building the party, and that the reliance on fulltimers inevitably means ‘substitutionalism’ and that there isn’t space for other comrades to develop.
It has been stated that we have a huge full time apparatus in Ireland, as well as 3 TDs. In response, we have explained that more than half are connected to the TD positions and the public work and are not Party full timers in the usual sense. The response has been that this illustrates how, ‘Scotland-like’, the Party has shifted opportunistically to a broader political position. That reflects little understanding of the pressures and demands placed on TDs and comrades who work with them in Ireland. Such superficial point scoring will not produce a democratic debate or clarify any facts.
As in so many aspects of this dispute, information, taken out of its context and inaccurately presented turns reality on its head.
For nearly all sections of the CWI, a full timer is political position connected to the tasks and goals of the Party itself. We will leave the North out of it as it really isn’t the focus of this issue. Four of the positions mentioned below are held by comrades who are also councillors (public reps) and that obviously means their public work curtails the time they have for the other tasks indicated. The basic breakdown of those comrades who work full or part time in south are:
General work 3 full time
Central internal/party work 1 full time
Industrial/paper sales 1 full time
Youth 1 part time
Finance work 2 full time 1 pt
Production/design 1 part time
ROSA 1 part time
Dail work 7 ft 1 part time
Area internal/party work 2 full time 2 part time
Area Dail/Solidarity work 3 full time 3 part time
Of the comrades who are full time, including TDs:
13 are full time in work related to the public positions, administration, case work, media etc
4 are full time specifically related to central internal/finance/publications
2 are area full timers in Cork and Limerick
3 comrades linked to general work – the majority of which is more internal but also includes a lot related to the public positions and mass work, and sometimes overwhelmingly so.
Of the comrades who are part time:
4 are part time in work related to the public positions
1 is a ROSA part timer
1 is part time for finance
1 is part time on production
2 are area part timers DW and DSW
1 is a youth part timer
The clear bulk of comrades in full time political related work are connected to the public positions. Comrades shouldn’t have the wrong impression, that there is a massive overkill or decision made that this work is the most important work etc.
There is a large burden of work and demands from the public and from the structures and of the parliamentary system related to each TD position, both in the Dail and in the local constituencies of the TDs. This includes a huge amount of representative work for constituents as well as legislative work. The Dail makes resources available to all TDs for support staff and offices/facilities to fulfil their responsibilities. In general this money is ring-fenced and can only be used for these specific purposes.
The Party has not made a decision that we will have more fulltimers allocated to the public and mass work. The truth is we have been trying to switch the balance of the work in the other direction. However, it is a very concrete issue — namely that these resources exist for specific jobs related to the public work. If we refuse to use them, the resources go back to the state and we would put ourselves at a disadvantage vis-a-vis other parties or TDs, who utilise them to improve their impact in the Dail and in the areas. It is politically correct to draw down this money for these positions. It has also been politically correct in our view, where possible to use some of this money to give an extra boost to Socialist Party building, the arena of work that has been in fact under-resourced.
The comrades connected to the public positions are not fulltimers in the way comrades in different sections understand full timers. The character of the work is fundamentally different and if we were to lose the TDs positions, the comrades know that these positions would no longer exist. In fact it is a very positive sign of the general commitment of these comrades that many left other employment to help the Party fill these positions which are a byproduct of our electoral successes. Comrades who take on such roles often struggle with the wearing effect of dealing with housing / homelessness related queries and other issues from working class constituents, and make a sacrifice by taking on this difficult task while also striving to develop politically and play full roles in their branches and Party building outside of office hours.
The idea being put forward, that there is a large bloc of traditional Party / political fulltimers is simply not the case. These comrades are dispersed over many locations. At most 9 will be based in the party centre in Dublin, 12 or so in the Dail and then comrades in offices or on location in DW, DSW, Cork and Limerick.
The number of fulltimers in the South actually connected to Party work at any given time would be just over 10. That is probably more than in other sections of similar size, but the spread of the work in Ireland is greater than most because of the position we hold in society. As well, we are trying to overcome the problems that have flowed from the mass and public work, and we believe that justifies our attempts to try to strengthen the full time team for Party work and tasks. A number of these resources party are relatively newly allocated. A few years ago the number of Party full timers was significantly less.
Within the allocation of full timers at the moment, there is an onus given to the priority areas, that is where we have a strong mass base and potential to build. It may be appropriate to review that with a view to strengthening the central team or otherwise.
Branch Secretaries as Fulltimers?
We do not have a policy that all branch secretaries should be full time. In the four prioritised areas, DSW, DW, Cork and Limerick, all of the branch secretaries are full timers. In the areas where we have public positions to be defended, a mass influence and all the tasks related to building the party, it would be difficult to sustain the work if there wasn’t a party full timer per constituency. However, two of those were the branch secretaries before they became full time (after the electoral breakthrough in 2016) and are trying to work to develop others into these positions. One of the other two is a full timer but in the Dail, not for the area he is secretary of. He is the secretary because of the role he has played over a whole period building the party in the area.
In the four other branches in the South, only one Secretary is a full timer. This comrade is a fulltimer in the Dail doing parliamentary work. She is not full time for the area she is Secretary and is a young comrade who has developed politically and her developing as a Secretary represents a step forward in new cadre development. Two of the other three secretaries are workers and one is a student.
There is an exceptional situation in Ireland where we have to ask comrades to take positions related to the public positions we have won. If we did not fill these positions we would be deciding to weaken our public position while our opponents strengthen theirs. There could be dangers with this position, not least the impact that such exposure to the institutions of bourgeois rule may have politically. We are aware of these and in fairness, so are the comrades in these positions themselves.
Cadre base moving forward & fulltimers role in political development
However, any insinuation that these comrades are undermining democracy in the party, are acting as a dead hand or that the amount of full timers means that ‘substitutionalism’ has become a method in the party in Ireland, is not backed up by any facts. The truth is that many of these comrades are moving forward politically and adding more as a result to the local and national structures of the party. The approach that all full time comrades are encouraged and expected to adopt is to politically discuss with and encourage other comrades to step into active roles as a key means of developing the cadre base. The fact that the cadre base of the party is moving forward indicates that, at least in part, this has been successful.
Perspectives & method fundamental to successes
The organisation in Ireland is not known for ‘blowing its own trumpet’. In fact in the past the IS used to complain that we didn’t shout our successes from the rooftops. However, in this dispute a fairly consistent theme has been pushed that successes in the work doesn’t mean that mistakes aren’t being made, or more to the point, even an organisation that is rotten can achieve successes. With that, any positive significance of the successes in Ireland is dispatched by a theoretically correct but thoroughly abstract formula.
There are many weaknesses in the Irish organisation, and like all sections we have made many mistakes over the years. However, when a very small Party consistently, over many years and in difficult circumstances achieves significant and sometimes spectacular successes, that shouldn’t be dismissed.
We feel it is not defensive to make this point, just a correction on the factional approach adopted that is trying to diminish the significance of, for example, the national mass movements we built and how they played a key role in defeating water charges and knocking backing austerity, or the historic role our comrades played in ensuring that people have a chance to vote for abortion up to 12 weeks on request.
Neither of these recent achievements indicated the approach of seeking “shortcuts” or easier options condemned by the IS majority. Both were connected to quite a developed and intricate analysis of the potential perspectives contained in the situation if the Party took certain courses of action and initiatives. These and other successes of the Party over many years do speak to a Marxist capability to analyse developments, identify the correct and appropriate initiatives, execute those tactics and plans and mobilise the Party and crucially important sections of the working class and young behind them. That is not to mention the main and ongoing achievement of the Party in Ireland, the development and maintenance of a class and revolutionary position on the National Question in Ireland in extremely difficult circumstances.
For a balanced appraisal
These struggles have been educational for the whole party, with more lessons still to be drawn out and developed. There has been a huge effort on behalf of comrades over many years and the situation sometimes created extreme pressures, tension and periods of exhaustion, often followed by even more intense periods of action by comrades. The Party and many comrades individually have been attacked and vilified literally by the left, right and centre for the determined way that we have fought. Undoubtedly in these conditions there have been some tensions in the Party and weaknesses with how it has operated in the period of heightened and intense struggle since late 2011.
However, unlike the IS Majority and some comrades in Ireland, we believe that the pluses and the achievements outweigh the negatives by some distance. We have helped establish vital lessons and pointers for the working class and the young and we are in a position to strengthen the building of the revolutionary Party in a very significant way in the years ahead. As we have explained, that requires a significant alteration in the balance of the work until a better and more sustainable equilibrium is struck so that the party the fundamental challenge that faces all revolutionary parties, to become a real force within the working class and in society and at the same time as maintaining a Marxist understanding, programme and revolutionary character.
We have made a start
As mentioned, we have implemented a turn to Party building after the General Election in 2016, though so far we have not been able to go as far as we would like due to some objective and subjective factors.
After the General Election, the water charges movement went into total decline. While there were some important strikes, the momentum towards activity and the opening up of political opportunities dissipated. We still felt there were important layers politicised and radicalised to be tapped into.
From the summer/autumn of 2016 right through to the end of June in 2017, when the ‘Not Guilty’ verdict was dramatically announced, the work on Jobstown was the dominant work of the party. Two leading comrades connected to the internal and party building took on major responsibilities for the Jobstown work, which was necessary because of the seriousness of the situation and the absence of experienced cadre. Inevitably this affected the internal and Party building aspects of the work.
Not long after the Jobstown verdict, we entered another phase of mass work, and therefore another challenge, this time in the Abortion struggle and the Repeal referendum which brought us through to the summer of 2018. However, the political questions and debate thrown up by this struggle and the fact that it tended to activate young people, including teenagers, meant that there were strong prospects of making definite gains in terms of recruitment from this mass activity, in comparison to earlier ones. Comrades can see that it wasn’t until this struggle was concluded (which was activity we had initiated six years earlier), that the Party was in a better position to fully implement the turn to building, including the rebuilding the consciousness about Party building and the methods necessary. This remains the key issue and focus, although there has been a time-absorbing disputes in the section and the International since September 2018.
Pushing Recruitment and Building
In the South we have put a major emphasis on recruitment since the summer of 2016, in particular pushing the need for more comrades to be involved in getting contacts either individually or collectively on activities and interventions. We have felt that because there is quite a lot of political confusion amongst workers and youth going through a process of political radicalisation, and because there are particular issues regarding new people being consistently active, we have not just thrown the doors open, but have striven to recruit on the best political basis possible, including the payment of subs before someone is considered a member. We recruited 41 in 2017 and from the start of 2018 to February 2019, we have recruited 46. We have also reduced some from the books over the same time.
We are striving to recruit at a better rate, but recruitment is not the main problem that needs to be overcome. The key question is the political consolidation of new members into active developing comrades, and in this way developing a stronger path to building of new cadre in the party.
Over the years of heightened mass work and struggles, when we have also stood in 2 General Elections, Local Elections, the European Election and four By-Elections, there has been a wearing out of the cadre and reserves of the party. We are inevitably in a period of rebuilding and replenishment. In this it would not be helpful to have a too vague or general orientation, and that is way we have repeated constantly that we are targeting workers, women, and young people in particular. A new layer of young people coming around the party was clearly seen at our annual four day Party Summer School in Wicklow in 2017, and even more so last year when there were 126 in attendance.
Putting comrades on a path of political development – a rooted, political approach to concretise Marxist ideas & give new comrades the tools they need – Marxist methods and programme
In terms of consolidation and development of comrades, a systematic approach to political discussions is very important, but it is only the start.
The crucial quality of political consolidation is that it needs to introduce the key ideas and methods of Marxism but this needs to be done linked to the real current situation and questions that are posed in Ireland and internationally at this juncture. It is necessary to go from the theoretical and ideological to the concrete. That way you answer people’s questions, but also educate and give comrades confidence by showing how Marxist ideas and methods are applied in practice with real examples, and that every comrade can develop such a Marxist approach.
If the process of consolidation tends to be abstract, that will not equip the new members in the complex period we are in and can in fact be a mis-education. We need flexibility. We understand what is, but our approach is to always seek to raise the level. We need to be able to and judge when to move up gears. The level can be low and basic to start with, but with determination on behalf of the comrade and the correct type of political assistance, a newer member can develop quickly. It is important we gear consolidation to the specific level and needs of the comrade.
Politics and perspectives crucial to the drive to increase active engagement of comrades
The hesitancy that exists about committing to regular consistent activity, can be a condition of being young, but it is also a reflection of the precarious existence of many. This re-enforces the need for a definite and strong political approach in the consolidation process. We need to not only recruit someone to a set of ideas, but also to a living perspectives for how a revolutionary party can develop. Giving new comrades the reasons to be active, lays the basis for consistency.
A crucial part of consolidation is also assisting newer member on activities. It is very important new members are brought on activities and to make sure the comrades are clear on the goals of the activity, why such goals are important and to coach, through trial and error how to engage in the activity or intervention, and indeed to adopt a critical eye and try to improve our activities.
We agreed at our Conference last March that every new member would be allocated to a comrade to assist their integration and for fortnightly political discussions for a period of three months and then reviewed. The reading pack and lists that have been produced can act as a base for this, along with more contemporary material from our journal. It is vital that this more definite and more conscious political approach is adopted. It is only by fighting a struggle for such an approach that we will achieve a breakthrough in the rate and quality of consolidation, recognisable in more comrades active generally in the party. Consolidation transforms recruitment into a real gain for the party. There are such signs in the increased number of young members active and newer comrades coming onto BCs, but there hasn’t been a qualitative breakthrough yet.
There have been important improvements in the quality of activities and the of interventions. Sometimes local area based activities aren’t or can’t be as impactful as we would like. Therefore new members should not be just pushed to be active in the area they have been allocated to. Bringing all comrades, but particularly newer people into city centre based Days of Action can have the equivalent of 20 normal activities.
Initiatives to boost Socialist Party profile and Party consciousness
This is something we started trying in 2016, not long after the General Election and at the end of May that year we had Socialist Party Day of Actions in 4 city centres that were attended by 75 comrades, where 250 papers were sold and around €700 was raised and 14 new contacts obtained and resulted in recruitment to the party. This type of combined activity can have a powerful effect on newer and more long standing members alike. We have continued with an approach of bringing all comrades together from time to time to maximise the overall impact of the intervention but also on the members and part consciousness.
We have reported elsewhere on the exceptional activities we had on abortion in 2017 and during the build up to the referendum campaign last May. Since then the party in the south has taken a particular turn to the crisis in housing, homelessness and rents.
When new protests began to break out last September, our intervention was lead in many ways by younger comrades. On an 800 person protest on 12 September, we sold 60 papers and at the 1,000 person protest on 21 September, we sold 120 papers. We also sold 110 papers on the Raise the Roof demonstration on 3 October. We organised public meetings Capitalism and Housing: Our Crisis, Their Profits. We also produced a new pamphlet on housing with the same title and sold over 120 copies at a housing march on 1 December. We also sold just under 110 papers at the protest against the Papal visit at the end of August.
We have held a series of special political educational events where we have targeted the newer members but also the BC members with a view to helping knit together and develop a positive relationship between the comrades and to assist and push along the one to one process of discussion and integration. Between Autumn 2017 and 2018 have been five day long events of this kind, which were replicated in Galway in the summer and again in Autumn, a branch that has had an influx of members as a result of the successful repeal/abortion work. In Dublin there were three educational aggregates for all members during the same period.
Political material and education
In regard to the crucial task of cadre development, the relaunching of our journal in late 2015 was a declaration of intent. The journal is an important tool for pushing more in-depth discussions on important theoretical questions of the day. The publication of two books, “Ireland’s Lost Revolution” in 2016 and “Common History, Common Struggle” in 2017, have also had an important effect on comrades. They and other articles, pamphlets and books have been discussed at a myriad of different reading groups across all branches.
All of this is an essential part of developing and broadening out cadre development. However, we also agreed an outline approach, including a political education course, to promote the idea of the struggle to build a revolutionary cadre and to formalise cadre development at our last conference. A number of different factors have meant we haven’t been able launch the course yet, but the idea included developing a content to a course that would involve developed and current material on key topics.
The Conference resolution said:
“We should discuss if we can launch an advanced cadre development course, in the autumn this year, similar to the one that the party operated for a time years ago, perhaps with adaptations. That course was an advanced level, dealing with six topics over a six week period in a group format. The topics were: l Historical Materialism l Dialectical Materialism l Marxism and the State l Women’s Liberation l Marxist Economics l The National Question Some issues flow from the above,from our past experience and the current situation and need to be considered when deciding on a new course: 1) The idea of featuring the revolutionary party, a key and recurring theme; 2) The idea of featuring a topic that makes clearer what are the tools and methods of Marxism 3) Class consciousness and the rebuilding of the working class movement 4) The need to apply these ideas to the current situation as a guard against an abstract approach 5) Review how long a course would run for should be considered. It may be appropriate to run it over a longer timeframe to ensure the participants can properly prepare and that the discussion are conclusive”.
It is interesting, long before the current dispute and accusations that the Party in Ireland had abandoned the working class as the key agency for change, that we had agreed a motion at conference to add the working class as a key topic to be included in the special and more advanced cadre development course.
There are 8 branches in the South, 5 in Dublin and one each in Galway, Limerick and Cork, and there is also a grouping of comrades in the Carlow/Kilkenny area. All of the branches meet and are active. All of the branches are stronger than they were two years ago and have functioning Branch Committees.
As already indicated the leading national structures, the NC and the NEC meet regularly, and in the regions there are regular executive and/or sub committee meetings that organise the different aspects of the work. The Party Conference takes place annually with developed perspectives and building documents. For the last number of years we have increased the political educational aspect of conference by adding theoretical discussions on topics such as the role of the revolutionary party, the state and the National Question. We have had an annual Summer Camp/school, particularly geared towards young people since 2012. There are 3 Party branches in the North, 2 in Belfast and one new branch in Derry.
The fundraising aspects of the work also in general improved over the last years. In the months ahead, a laser focus on improving the subs base must be integral to Party Building tasks and consciousness of all cadre. The average number of sub payers in the South in 2018 was around 100. With a drive , 127 paid in November 2018, giving an indication of the potential to quickly improve the situation. (Note: 127 out of a membership in the South of 218, and bearing in mind that fulltimers as detailed above do not pay subs, was 67% payment). The Internal and Finance Committee have proposed an immediate Subs and Standing Order drive in the South with 127 being the baseline target for the 2 next months and in our view a target should be discussed and agreed to go beyond this to 150 by the summer. The average agreed sub is €50; the average sub paid per member in 2018, including members who didn’t pay was €33 and the average per member who paid was €44. The total raised in subs in 2018 was just under €75,000.
All the branches have increased their Campaign Fund targets since 2015, and three branches increased their targets again in 2018. Showing a definite development a number or a majority of branches reached their targets for last year. We raised €33,332 in Campaign Fund in 2017 and €40,248 in 2018.
As an indication of the developing periphery around the Party and an improvement in the capabilities of comrades to raise cash from people, our annual Xmas Raffle has improved significantly. For many years in late November and early December each year our basic target was to try to sell 1,500 €10 raffle tickets to boost the Campaign Fund.
In 2016 we raised €14,660 from raffle ticket sales, that is, we sold 1,466 €10 tickets. In 2017 we sold 1,572 €10 Xmas raffle tickets and in the Xmas just gone, we sold 1,705 €10 raffle tickets.
Conscious of our weaknesses & waging a battle to improve
The Party in Ireland is being accused of looking for shortcuts and of adapting to current consciousness. That’s not the case, either at the height of the mass work and struggles on water charges, Jobstown or abortion when we faced uphill battles over years and acted as the cutting edge of the change and raising the level. Nor when building the Party and introducing new people to socialism and Marxism. We have adopted a challenging approach both inside the working class and inside the party.
We recognised some time ago that we are suffering the debilitating effects of a fundamental imbalance between the mass work and public position we hold and the need to build the revolutionary party. In current conditions, with the profound absence of fighting organisations to represent the working class, like to a black-hole, we are being sucked again and again towards representation and immediate day to day issues. Inevitably the consciousness of comrades has been affected by this, but also a battle has and is being waged to turn the ship onto a better and surer course.
Seeking to make a qualitative breakthrough in party building with a political approach
We created an Internal and Finance committee in the South a number of years ago. That was to be a source of ideas and drive to help re-root the consciousness regarding party building and an understanding of revolutionary methods throughout the organisation. This committee has also been in the middle of a tussle between the different sides of the work. However, it has a crucial role to play as in order to overcome a deep-seated imbalanced there needs to be a powerful countervailing force.
We are particularly focusing on bringing a quality political approach and level of concentration to consolidation and cadre development, aiming to achieve a qualitative breakthrough reflected in the real development of the active membership and the building of the cadre in the party to not only further strengthen the BCs but to create the basis for a regional and possibly district committees in the Party. What would inevitably flow from this would be more comrades playing developed roles in the Party and that will have a powerful political and developmental effect on the whole organisation, both in the ranks but also in the leadership. In addition, it is clear that youth and work in the workplace needs to be developed and given more resources in the months and years ahead.
For a democratic, constructive debate that can strengthen the revolutionary party internationally and within Ireland
Criticisms have been made, much of it imbalanced, about democracy in the Party. We have been operating in an extremely challenging situation where it has taken many different kinds of struggles on its shoulders. We have achieved huge successes and pushed the working class movement forward in this country. This work and the struggles we engaged in was openly discussed and decided on within the Party. These struggles and the role we have played has also created enormous pressures and strains on the Party.
The discussion, debate and indeed that is opening up inside the party in Ireland and internationally can have a clarifying and positive impact if an open and constructive approach is taken. What is essential now and always in a revolutionary party, is that the cadre basis is spread and deepened. The fullest and most vibrant democracy exists and the future is secure in a revolutionary party when the cadre is growing and developing.
Lastly, we feel in the spirit of balance, it is appropriate to have a perspective when considering weaknesses and any mistakes in the Irish organisation. Such are inevitable in the work of a revolutionary party, and if a microscope was taken to any section or to the IS majority there would also be a distorted picture, which would need adjustment so a better and clearer perspective can be gained.
The IS majority’s criticism that we have abandoned the working class would be a shock first and foremost to the Irish working class, many of whom look to our party to point a way forward. For a number of objective reasons, but also a lot of subjective work, the Party here has been able to go further towards impacting on mass consciousness and in some respects creating a mass basis for our ideas through the struggles we have led and the public positions we have conquered. A Party needs to be armed with a Marxist programme and be genuinely revolutionary in its character and approach if it is to be able to be the cutting edge leadership in overthrowing capitalism. But a party that isn’t capable of building a mass basis will never even get the opportunity to fight for the leadership of the working class, but instead will be by-passed by events.
A genuine revolutionary party needs both. When fighting to achieve one, the other can be affected and the balance always needs to be monitored and be the subject of vigilance and struggle. According to the IS Majority, most of the sections of the CWI have been pushed back to being propaganda organisations and groups. We believe that is an imbalanced assessment. However, clearly it doesn’t describe the situation with the organisation in Ireland for the factors mentioned.
There are many weaknesses in the work of the party in Ireland, but there are also many strengths. We are and will learn from the work and interventions of other sections, but so too can other sections learn from the struggles of the Irish section. Not just the struggle against the water charges and austerity, or Jobstown or even on women’s rights and abortion. Perhaps more pointedly, sections could learn from the dangers, given current conditions in the working class movement, of getting caught by the ‘magnet-like’ pull of mass and public work and the threat that can pose to the integrity of the revolutionary party. That is the essential and defining struggle that many comrades have been involved in over the last years in Ireland, and we want to bring out the lessons for all the sections and comrades of the CWI.