If you hadn’t noticed, there is an election or rather a number of elections this week, what with the Euro Elections and the Council ones. Every lamp post, telegraph pole or slow moving animal has been festooned with posters for weeks. All of the hopefuls smile at you as you walk past, each photo carefully doctored so you can’t see the vampire fangs.
On a superficial level the posters all look the same and that is part of the problem as far as the Marxists in Ireland are concerned. The extent of the economic crisis and the disaster facing working people won’t be solved by the same old policies and appeals to ‘social partnership’. The truth is that capitalism has illustrated its limits in Ireland in a profound way.
This year the economy will shrink by about 10%. The numbers on the live register are approaching 400,000 and everyday there are more and more calamities as jobs are lost and people face losing their houses. This is the background to the collapse in the Fianna Fáil vote (which stands at 20% at the moment). Meanwhile Fine Gael is likely to be the biggest party in the Irish delegation to the European Parliament. But what is abundantly clear is the huge growth in support for Labour, who stand to come second in the popular vote with a vote almost 60% higher than the general election. However, this won’t necessarily be reflected in winning a lot of seats, because of the proportional representation. Irish Commentators notably Stephen Spillane in the Irish Times have noted that the polls have under represented the support for Labour in the country.
A big growth in Labour support will initially serve to boost the standing of Eamon Gilmore the Labour Party Leader. As such it’s unlikely that there will be a big differentiation in the party at least initially. There is a certain Gilmore cult within the party at the moment, although there are a layer of lefts within the party who are critical of Labour’s position in respect of the economic situation. Even now the pressure from below is having an effect in the party. The Labour Party introduced a private member’s bill in the Dáil on May 12th calling for the temporary nationalisation of the banks so they could be “cleaned up”. This is a marked departure from the Labour Conference where a resolution on nationalising the banks moved by Dermot Looney received around 10 to 15% of the vote on a show of hands.
However we would argue that the Labour proposal doesn’t go anyway near far enough. Temporary nationalisation would only represent a “little light dusting”. The truth of the matter is that only full permanent nationalisation under the democratic control of the working class can stop the rot that the capitalist crisis has created.
Meanwhile the radio and the television continue to report more job losses, more crisis and more unemployment. Fundamentally this is the background to what will be a big defeat for Cowen and Lenihan at the polls. The extent to which Labour can build an effective opposition to Fianna Fáil specifically and the economic crisis in general, depends on the policies and programmes that the party adopts.
We are quite clear. Labour needs a bold socialist programme that calls not only for the nationalisation of the banks. But also for democratic workers control of the dominant companies that control the Irish economy. It’s only through developing a democratically drawn up Socialist plan of production that we can begin to deal with the devastation that’s been caused by the crisis of capitalism.