Richard Boyd Kirk and Joe Spock have a plan, right?
Vincent Browne made a point recently about how, despite all that has happened, the status quo centre-right majority of Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour still manages to hold 70% or more in opinion polls and byelections. It raises a serious question: why, even in this environment, is the left failing so dismally to capitalise in Ireland?
I would suggest three factors:
The first, of course, is Fianna Fail. Since Fianna Fail achieved pretty much all its real political objectives with the passing of the 1937 Constitution (I’m ignoring the Irish language/families on the land guff which is all just political hat-tipping), the party quickly became very ideologically supple, in a way that would rip other parties apart in other countries, but allows it to chase both left wing and right wing voters simultaneously. This drained working class voters away from the left parties.
The second is Sinn Fein, which is now offering, to those same working class voters, what is basically I Can’t Believe It’s Not Fianna Fail, a Fianna Fail brand but without the history. The argument that SF is strongly left wing is just not true. Their proposed wealth tax, for example, will not even be paid by all wealthy people due to the tax loopholes they propose. Going by Sinn Fein’s record in government, SF economic policy in government would be slightly to the right of Edward Heath.
The third has been the utter failure of the non-sectarian Irish Left to reinvent itself beyond dated slogans of betrayal and finger-pointing. There is no thought given to a genuinely viable left wing economic platform in Ireland, other than one based on magic, and a spell that will give everybody free stuff that will magically be paid by those perennial imaginary creatures, the docile rich. Socialism will not require any sort of sacrifice or change to existing social or work practices, and this despite the demographic, technological and environmental changes facing our society.
The fact that the handful of prominent individuals on the Irish Left don’t even regard building a single left party as a priority just shows how unserious they are about advancing a genuine left wing alternative in Ireland. Neither Richard Boyd Barrett nor Joe Higgins could tell you how they plan to arrive at a situation where they could implement the society they call for. They will tell us what’s wrong with society, and what it should look like. But how they are going to get there politically? Incredibly, they don’t seem interested.
In fact, if you were a right wing CIA conspiracy player who wanted to create a fake democracy that looks to outsiders like a real democracy, the Irish Left would be your model. Shouty, big into strutting about the political stage, says all the right left-wing things, but has no intention of actually seriously trying to take control. Hell, you’d put them on the CIA payroll.
They might as well be discussing the future of the United Federation of Planets in “Star Trek” because thay have as much chance of shaping that fictional society as our real one, and the Irish electorate know it too. In fact, given that Star Trek is set essentially in a Democratic Communist society, maybe that is their plan. At least it would mean they have one.