Over 180 attended the Socialist Party’s weekend of debates entitled Socialism Today in Dublin on 29 – 30 October.
Debates took place between former Taoiseach Garett FitzGerald and Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins on "What future under capitalism?" and between Sinn Fein Belfast City Councillor Eoin O’Broin and Peter Hadden, Northern Ireland Regional Secretary, Socialist Party, on "Socialism and Nationalism".
The audience experienced a number of surprises in the course of the weekend. The first came when ex-Fine Gael Taoiseach, Dr. Garret Fitzgerald, declared that he agreed with 90% of what Joe Higgins had said. However, he couldn’t see how socialist ideas could be put into action. Even more of a surprise for many was that Eoin O’Broin echoed many of the arguments of Dr. Fitzgerald. He felt that the working class wasn’t a powerful force and that ideas like socialism were "sentimental piety" which couldn’t be achieved in the foreseeable future, so instead we should concentrate on "national liberation".
In the forum on Privatisation, Cllr. Clare Daly (Aer Lingus Shop Steward), Janice Godrich (President of the PCS Union in Britain) and Carmel Gates (President of NIPSA) all explained what privatisation means for workers – cuts in jobs and conditions and a worse public service. Janice in particular outlined the process of cutbacks taking place in the public service in Britain and the preparations for strike action by the PCS which began on 5 November.
The event ended with a rally for socialism at which one of the speakers was Hannah Sell (author of Socialism in the 21st Century). Hannah spoke about the massive waste of resources under capitalism, where $1trillion is spent every year on the arms industry, and explaining how a socialist society could use these massive resources for people’s needs, not the for the profit of a few. As Amy Bannon, a Socialist Youth member, put it, "Hannah Sell’s speech summed up how socialism could solve all the problems facing the world today".
Hazel Devine who recently joined the Socialist Party attended the debate between Peter Hadden (Socialist Party) and North Belfast Sinn Fein Councillor Eoin O’broin.
"I WAS disapointed that I didn’t get to put some points to Mr O’Broin. Eoin O’Broin said that Sinn Fein’s manifesto was open to all. I would have liked to ask him as a Protestant living in his constituency who is neither loyalist nor unionist, what does a nationalist party like Sinn Fein have to offer someone like me?
"Eoin O’Broin attacked the Socialist Party for wanting ordinary people to join it because of its’ socialist ideas. He dismissed this and catagorically stated that the way forward was through nationalist politics. I joined the Socialist Party because of the political void that exists. The Socialist Party offered real politics to me that are neither green nor orange. In the debate Eoin O’Broin offered only green nationalism."
From The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party, cwi in Ireland