Ireland’s ULA: We must win people to the struggle for a new party

Striking anti establishment feeling in the movement against the household tax

"Get a life" is Minister Shatter’s message to those fighting the household tax. Labour has also tried to put the boot in but clearly they are nervous that this movement can decisively damage its base in working class areas up and down the country.

Just a year after their landslide victory, in reality this government only has minority support for their austerity policies. More than half the population actively oppose their household tax and it is clear that the majority of those who did register only did so because of intimidation and threats. If they are able to intimidate and blackmail a majority into accepting their austerity treaty, it will inevitably be at a cost of a social explosion, sooner rather than later.

The battle lines are now being drawn on the Household Tax but also for a new struggle by the working class majority against the attacks from the capitalist class at home and abroad. This system is rotten and this is an irreconcilable struggle about who owns the future; them or us!

Sinn Fein will not play a role in this struggle. Their refusal to support the boycott of the Household Tax shows they are moving further to the right as they hope to be in power soon enough. Members or supporters of Sinn Fein who want a party that will fight the system, will have to look elsewhere.

The Socialist Party and some of the other members of the United Left Alliance are viewed positively by many people who are involved in the Household Tax battle because of the key role they are playing.

There is huge politicisation and radicalisation in this movement. The depth of the anti establishment feeling is striking. There is huge anger at the affects of austerity, but also at the brutal injustice and inequality involved. People know it’s all about putting bondholders and speculators first.

However, there has also been some mistrust of political parties among those at the public meetings, the rally in the National Stadium and big demos. This can even rub off on the genuine left, particularly when people who are coming into activity for the first time.

As corruption and sell-outs are the overwhelming experiences that people have had with the main parties over the last years, the ULA and its members must be convincing and must win people’s confidence. There is nothing automatic that means the ULA will develop and be the key part of the political re-organisation that is organically beginning to taking place.

Firstly, the ULA must convince people why a new party is necessary. It will need to win people, many of whom are sceptical, that a new party can be built that won’t sell-out. That it can instead assist the fight back against the system. It’s not about crudely getting people to join the ULA as the finished product or the “party”, it’s about winning people to the struggle for a new party and to the idea that the ULA can be a vital step towards such a party.

The ULA and its affiliates must fully fight and demonstrate in action in the campaigns that they act in the best interests of the working class movement. Not just individuals, but groups in areas or whole campaigns on issues could become politicised and interested. That is why an inclusive, respectful and federal alliance is the best structure for the ULA at this point.

There are different forces and ideas vying to fill the profound political vacuum that is opening in Ireland. There has been a progressive anti-imperialist sentiment among some ordinary people at the protests. However some would try to use this to bring the movement down a nationalist path, while throwing in a bit of superficial left rhetoric.

The working class needs to challenge capitalism in Ireland and abroad and link up with workers in other countries if the austerity nightmare is to be defeated. To phoney alternatives, the ULA must respond by fighting for a mass party that is radical; that is based on the power and traditions of class struggle; that links the likes of the Household Tax to austerity and austerity to capitalism; and all that to the need for socialist change in Ireland and internationally.

That is what the ULA should fight for.

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April 2012