Building the Left
Mick Finnegan, Workers Party President -
We are at a moment of real opportunity for the left. We know that the people are angry; we know that they are looking for change. We know that people want an alternative. We also know, however, that the institutions that serve capitalism – the political establishment and the media in particular – are telling them that There Is No Alternative: no alternative to falling wages, worsening working conditions, higher prices, and reduced living standards.
If the left is to take advantage of the current opportunity to make this truly a turning point, if we are to carve out for ourselves a permanently larger presence in political life and within civil society we must articulate a socialist alternative, which focuses on protecting and developing public services, and on job creation and economic development through deploying the immense economic power of the state; and thirdly the deepening of cooperation across the left in both the short and the long term.
The only way we can possibly mount an effective opposition is by mobilising the entire broad left, and by attracting new people to it. As we have seen with the trade union sponsored demonstrations, the broad left as a whole can mobilise a huge section of the population that dwarfs the numbers that individual parties or even alliances of left parties can hope to achieve. While we may disagree with elements of the worldview, programmes, or actions of other parties, trade unions or community organisations, we must seek to build an alliance of all those committed to certain basic progressive policies.
What then should the policies of the Irish left be over the next few years? As said earlier, we must promote socialism
as the alternative; and follow the strategic goal of building a serious radical left presence not just in electoral politics but also in trade unions, in community groups, and on the streets. This involves not just the traditional kinds of
hard work in workplaces and in communities, but also serious work that must be done to elaborate and articulate our
vision. This means, drawing up more detailed economic development plans, and we in political parties must build
on the good work being done by the like of TASC so that we can demonstrate to people that socialism is not just a moral concern with fairness. It is a hard-headed, practical programme grounded in the reality of people’s lives, and with the power to transform social relations between our people.
This means building an alternative culture, and it is here that progressive community organisations have a vital role to play. In alliance with trade unions and political parties, they can help us involve wider sections of the population, especially young people, in the struggle for progressive change in our society. Cultural activities can also become a focus for greater left cooperation. The Workers’ Party has transformed our publication LookLeft into a forum for broad left discussion and debate precisely as a means of both building left cooperation and in making left politics more attractive to people who have left sympathies but are not involved in any political organisation.
LookLeft continues to expand its readership, distribution network and its range of writers. We feel that it has played a positive role so far, and that it has the potential to play a greater role in the future. Although we still regard politics and the state as being at the centre of the struggle for socialism, building classconsciousness is more than a matter of building political parties, this means developing our cultural activities and exploiting new means of communications.