Left split in Ireland

Submitted by AWL on 9 October, 2019 - 9:10 Author: Micheál MacEoin

At the end of September, the Socialist Party of Ireland’s TD (member of parliament) Paul Murphy announced that he was leaving the SP to establish a new political organisation, RISE.

RISE stands for Radical, Internationalist, Socialist, Environmentalist. It will not register as a political party, and its candidates will stand in elections under the Solidarity-People Before Profit banner.

The move comes after a year-long debate inside the Irish SP about how the party should relate to wider movements, such as the environmentalist movement, which was part of a wider dispute within the SP’s international, the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI).

In the international debate, the leadership of the Irish SP, together with the Socialist Alternative in the US and others, stood for a greater orientation towards feminist and environmental concerns and campaigns. The British section, led by Peter Taaffe, denounced this as a concession to “Mandelism” and “identity politics”. To this they counterposed an ostensibly class-based approach, which was in reality more economistic and sectarian.

In that debate, Murphy had his own faction in the Irish SP, critical both of the Irish leadership’s alleged democratic shortcomings and the bureaucratic way in which Taaffe’s supporters were conducting the fight in the CWI, yet seemingly sympathetic to some of Taaffe’s criticisms around identity politics.

At the same time, in internal debates, Murphy argued for an opening towards Sinn Féin supporters, by adopting a “united front” approach, which seemed to mean in practice taking a less denunciatory approach to the party in day-to-day tactics. The Irish SP, he argued, took a too-rigid approach to alliances with wider movements.

An official account of Murphy’s departure from the Irish SP reported that “differences [were discussed] on the balance of our work, between building movements together with others and building our party independently and how we relate to existing political parties to our right – including Sinn Féin and the Green Party, and how we engage with broader movements and political forces.”

In its material, RISE has been foregrounding policies such as the “Socialist Green New Deal”, to tap into rising interest in environmentalism, in the context of the Climate Strike and XR.

Its programme a calls for a “new party of the working class, drawing together left, environmental, anti-austerity and community activists, trade unionists, and fighters against oppression, to take on the power of big business and the capitalist class and fight for socialism.”

Perhaps Murphy reckons his new grouping can grow quickly by recruiting on a looser basis from these movements, without the need to develop a smaller and more durable framework of cadres.

Just last year, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in Ireland dissolved itself into the looser Socialist Workers Network (SWN), part of the even looser People Before Profit (PBP). In the US, the International Socialist Organization (ISO) has collapsed and Solidarity has indicated a desire to shift from an activist organisation to more of an educational network.

There are opportunities for socialists to grow amidst the political polarisation and radicalisation internationally.

But there is a great danger in the further dissolution of the revolutionary socialist and Trotskyist tradition that nothing of enduring value will be built, and much lost.

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