The Irish Labour Party along with their Youth wing [Labour Youth] continue to speak out about their role in government, heralding their achievements as some sort of enormous steps in a progressive direction. The Irish Labour Party is a sorry deformed remnant of the ideals laid down by its founders.
The astute observations of James Connolly and Jim Larkin on the Capitalist system were of a Socialist and Marxist identity, an identity that has devolved and been abandoned. Three times the Irish Labour Party has gotten into bed with a reactionary right wing party and three times the repercussions for the common worker have been staggering. When James Connolly wrote that “The cause of labour is the cause of Ireland, the cause of Ireland is the cause of labour” he didn’t mean that it would be the officialdom of the Irish Labour Party and their vassal SIPTU receiving extortionate salaries, he meant that the working class of Ireland would be the supreme factor in determining all.
The party that the Labour Party has been in government with is a party that essentially represents reactionary right wing politics, shoehorned into government when the popularity of the other populist centrist party collapses. Though let’s get back on track. In so far as we can concern ourselves, the Irish Labour Party has steered away from attempting to represents the views of Socialism and ‘Connollyism’ to represent regular views of Social Democrat parties that conform to the Capitalism of today. The Irish Labour Party has behaved in largely the same way as the two other mainstream political parties have in Ireland, never really deviating from a mostly leftist position.
Their control over SIPTU and subsequently the actions SIPTU have taken have been detrimental to the rights of working class people, undemocratic and consistently against ‘Socialism’ as a principle. If one took a brief look at the salaries, positions and entitlements of current Labour Party politicians one could draw a link between them and the slumlords of 1913 who Larkin and Connolly wholeheartedly argued against.
The argument often provided by members of both Labour Youth and the Labour Party is that “times change” and that the principles of Connolly are not applicable to contemporary society. Yet the principles of Connolly were never met to begin with and secondly are not even that complicated. It’s difficult to misinterpret or take out of context certain statements made by Connolly in his work:
“The day has passed for patching up the capitalist system; it must go. And in the work of abolishing it the Catholic and the Protestant, the Catholic and the Jew, the Catholic and the Freethinker, the Catholic and the Buddhist, the Catholic and the Mahometan will co-operate together, knowing no rivalry but the rivalry of endeavour toward an end beneficial to all. For, as we have said elsewhere, socialism is neither Protestant nor Catholic, Christian nor Freethinker, Buddhist, Mahometan, nor Jew; it is only Human. We of the socialist working class realise that as we suffer together we must work together that we may enjoy together. We reject the firebrand of capitalist warfare and offer you the olive leaf of brotherhood and justice to and for all.”
There’s no doubt to the clarity of his words here, the capitalist system must go. The Irish Labour Party and subsequently their youth wing have only facilitated and supported capitalism, embracing its luxuries and benefits while turning their back on the working people that once founded it. Times have changed, that is true, but circumstances have remained largely the same.
Let us remember the founding principles that the capitalist system operates upon, that is the accumulation of profit. In order to gain the greatest profit the system must be in firm control of the means of production [you and I], this requires political supremacy and the domination of Trade Unions. In the domination of Trade Unions I refer directly to SIPTU who even in November were urging their members to not partake in the civil protest against the paying of fees for Irish Water.
A Trade Union of that size must be at the forefront of any protests rather than pandering to the interests of the government. Though their stance eventually changed, it is important to note that it did so due to internal dissent. Another important thing to note is that the nominal ‘head’ of SIPTU is on a salary of 124,000 which is roughly four times the average wage of a worker. It is therefore no surprise that the idea that is placed upon this head, alongside fellow high earning party members is far from the reality on the ground.
A party that states it represents a working class whilst earning quadruple the average income of the working class is categorically lying to itself and to its electorate. How can one truly represent the interests of a class whilst living a life that is completely opposite to those of the working class? I find it near impossible to comprehend how an individual who earns 124,000 can truly understand the plight of those earning 27,000. The circumstances and environment are completely different! Never mind the fact that government officials are also entitled to great expenses, all covered by the tax payer.
It is quite clear that the deviation that the Irish Labour Party has engaged in has thoroughly changed not only the mentality of understanding left versus right in Irish politics but also in maintaining some sort of credible representation of left wing values. The Labour Party has no left wing values and should not be seen as a party with a leftist orientation. It is a party much alike the other two manifestations in Irish politics, populist, reactionary, careerist and devoid of any principles that benefit anybody but an elite.
It is a party that disgraces the name of James Connolly while brainwashing their members that they hold a distinct and divine connection to him, naturally quickly forgetting the nature of his works and the message behind them: The abolition [note: not the facilitation] of capitalism.
In my relatively short period in investigating left wing politics in Ireland I have come across many seemingly passionate and committed individuals in Labour Youth and other parties (establishment parties included). I would urge those who have solidified their ideological principles (Marxists, Socialists, and Republicans alike) to re-evaluate the parties they bind themselves too.
http://www.labour.ie/principles/ (Socialism is absent from the ‘principles’, even though the founding father explicitly states in almost every single piece of work exactly where he stands).
http://www.thejournal.ie/siptu-water-charges-protests-1792547-Nov2014/ [An example of reactionary/reformist thinking]