Ireland: Labour must represent the interests of the working class - No coalition with Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil

While the political arithmetic of the next Dáil won’t be clear until after February the 25th, the battle lines in the state have been drawn for some time. The Irish bourgeois are well aware that Fianna Fáil are a dead duck. Now Enda Kenny has decided to concentrate his fire on the Labour Party. There is one reason alone for this. The bourgeois want full control of the levers of power and to all intents and purposes they want a continuation of Cowen and Lenihan’s austerity programme, regardless of whoever leads the government.

Over the past few months there have been periodic references to joint talks, round table discussions and the need for all parties to pull together. Micheál Martin has even gone as far as to say that FF would support a minority Fine Gael government from the opposition benches. It’s clear that sections of the bourgeois and no doubt the EU and IMF who initiated some of this discussion would favour some sort of Grand Coalition or national government, which in practice would mean a coalition without the Labour Party.

That might well be too much to bare for sections of FG and FF who after all have a "history" of rivalry going back to the formation of the state. But under the present conditions, the interests of the bourgeoisie could easily become more important. Its not ruled out that a new formation akin to the Progressive Democrats might emerge. Certainly the prospects for FF are particularly grim at this stage, according to the latest Red C poll they remain on 15%.

The impasse in the state has reached a crisis over the last few months and from the point of view of the bourgeois, the idea of an FG/Labour Coalition leaves the door open for pressure from below from the working class. What is evident is that there will be no return of the Celtic Tiger on the 26th February. The next Dáil will be racked with crisis and the Bourgeois would prefer not to leave the door open to Labour.

The latest opinion polls which give Fine Gael around 38% of the vote seems to have altered the perspective of the Fine Gael leadership who now think they might win enough seats to rule either alone or with some Independent TD’s.This would give the bosses an opportunity to push through more austerity and more attacks on working people. Hence the attacks on the Labour Party and hence also the remarks in today’s Independent:

“Yesterday Fine Gael TD Phil Hogan told the Sunday Independent that its "favoured option" would be to form a government on its own or with "like-minded" independent TDs.

"Obviously it is a matter for the people to decide," Mr Hogan said, but he added that Fine Gael would only negotiate with Labour on the basis of the mandate received for Fine Gael's five-point plan "to keep taxes low, to eliminate waste and put jobs at the centre of policy".

As if to underline the belief that Fine Gael would prefer to go it alone after the election, finance spokesman Michael Noonan has called on Labour to break its link with the trade union movement.

In effect, Mr Noonan laid down a marker yesterday when he said the trade unions had wielded disproportionate "influence and power" in Government Buildings in the last 10 years.

In what amounts to a dramatic escalation of the row between the prospective coalition partners, he placed the unions in a category of a "golden circle" of "vested interests".

"It's time for a complete break with the past in Irish politics. The golden circle of influence and inside dealing has to end," Mr Noonan told the Sunday Independent.”

 While most of the attacks on Labour Party are populist gestures by bourgeois politicians, it’s interesting to note that they are framed in more or less the same terms as those used by the right wing of the Labour Party against the left. This begs the question as to the influence of right wing pro capitalist ideas in the tops of the Labour Party. But it also demonstrates the real fear of the bourgeois that the Labour Party does have a direct link with the Trade Unions. After all, it would clearly be a disaster to allow working people any voice in the running of the state. Best leave that to our betters no doubt.

Labour needs to develop a clear socialist position. A farsighted leadership basing itself on the interests of the working class would make mincemeat of the miserable bunch of petit bourgeois careerists, and lickspittles in the ranks of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. But instead the Labour leadership and the Labour Parliamentary Party (LPP) have consistently avoided taking a clear position on the economic and political issues. As we have explained recently the leadership have made big changes to the party programme also:

“The sudden policy changes adopted by the LPP, with disregard to motions passed at Labour Party conferences, are populist attempts to win votes led more by media pressure than by the interests of working people. There is an urge to get in office, to hold power, which constitute to most important aim of the professional politicians of the establishment. In that regard, the LPP is part of the establishment and in favour of mild ‘reforms’ only in so far as they can present themselves as a slight different political brand in respect to FG or FF.” Labour's ambiguity3/2/11

The problem for Eamon Gilmore however is that far from solving his problems, watering down Labour’s programme weakens the Party. If there is no distinction between Labour’s position and that of FG, then what does the party stand for? Gilmore is squandering the important positions that the party seemed to have won over the last couple of years. The party's vote is down to 20% according to Red C, high by the standards of 2007, but poor in comparison to what could and should have been possible. Gilmore's personal support seems to be on the slide also. The image of "electability" seems to be fading somewhat. This means that it will be more difficult for him to justify his political vacillation and meandering to the Labour Party rank and file.  Increasingly this will lead to tensions within the party and it’s likely that a left wing will develop at a certain stage. Workers in both the Public and Private sectors will be looking for answers and will want to see the party taking up their struggles.

It is interesting that already there is opposition within the party to a coalition with Fine Gael. This reflects the understanding of a layer of particularly younger activists. The question has to be asked; What is the point of tail ending a right wing government led by Fine Gael? Working people deserve better than that. We have raised the idea of a Labour and Left coalition as an alternative. The battle lines have already been drawn with the EU/IMF Deal, Croke Park and the Finance Bill. The question for the right wing leadership of the Labour Party is straightforward:

“What side are you on boys?”

Source: Fightback (Ireland)