I am the one you warned me of

I notice that my rather facetious comments on the far left’s intervention in the upcoming Stormont election have provoked an irate response from a partisan of the Socialist Party. If you look in the comments below, you will find that I have responded politely to his substantive points. I am of course gratified that at least one Irish leftist is reading this blog, but I sense a dark cloud on the horizon. That dark cloud is the SP’s fulltimer for the internet, the famously humourless Brian Cahill, bombarding me with splenetic comments any time I say anything slightly uncomplimentary about his sect. Therefore I feel it is incumbent on me to spell out from which vantage point I will be dealing with the Irish left. Please allow me to introduce myself…

I was born a long time ago. I write about the left from bitter experience and close observation over many years. I knew the Socialist Party when it was still the RSL, and a brief glance at the timeless contents of The Socialist assures me that my criticisms of it only need updating to the extent that that organisation’s idiosyncrasies have deepened over the years. I have studied the Socialist Workers Movement from the inside, and am better placed than most to examine its Melrose Place cum Darkness At Noon internal life, as well as its public positions. I have seen things that Brian Cahill can’t possibly imagine.

This blog does not represent the viewpoint of any organisation. It represents only the thoughts of a fairly experienced socialist militant. Bearing in mind my extensive familiarity with the existing (and some no longer existing) left groups, it is unlikely that I will go out of my way to be kind to any of them. If members of the Socialist Party or the SWP take umbrage at some of my remarks, tough. If they think I’m being unfair to them, boo hoo. Vu shteyt’s geshribn that I should be fair? My approach will be, credit where credit is due and a smack in the gub where a smack in the gub is due.

If anyone is expecting this to be a flame-fest pure and simple, though, they will be disappointed. I write about the left because I am of the left. I have every intention of writing about the bigger issues of the day, and have indeed begun to do so. And my writing on the left won’t be restricted to exposés of gormlessness – although examples aren’t hard to come by – but will include more sober reflections on the far left experience, as well as some constructive ideas as to how things can be taken forward.

Nobody of course is under any obligation to pay attention to anything I say, still less agree with me. My modest hope is that some readers might find some of my posts thought-provoking, reflect on them, and use them to inform their own ideas. In this spirit I will endeavour to have a civil argument with anyone who wants to argue in a serious way, although I am under no obligation to tolerate the purely abusive and will not do so. I would like an active and interested readership, and hope that this blog can provide a forum for developing debate.


  1. Liam Mac Uaid said,

    January 13, 2007 at 12:27 am

    I’ve started nicking some of your links.

  2. scrawledincrayon said,

    January 13, 2007 at 3:36 am

    I would feel honoured to be responded to at such length no less than twice, but, as it looks like I’m your only regular reader so far, I suppose I shouldn’t swell too much with pride.

    You are quite right in guessing that I’m sympathetic to the Socialist Party. It’s hardly a secret. I’m a little confused by your own apparent reluctance to make your political affiliations or sympathies clear. You refer to having watched the Socialist Party from the outside and to having been a member of the SWP. You state that your blog represents the views of no organisation. You set out by telling us that you intend to spell out your vantage point but you don’t mention any current organizational connection. You even go so far as to say that you are unlikely to be kind to any of the existing groups. And yet…

    …My nose is as sensitive as yours. I too keep detecting a familiar odour. That faint whiff of disappointment mixed with the cloying aroma of decaying left-nationalism can’t help but remind me of Socialist Democracy. I can’t be certain of course. Like many on the Irish left you may never even have heard of them. But I can assure you, based on your politics as expressed on this blog and your refusal to let inconvenient facts get in the way of your “artistic licence” to slur others on the left, that you would probably feel quite at home there. So, without wanting to act as a recruiting sergeant for Socialist Democracy, if you haven’t already joined perhaps you should consider it.

    There might be a couple of stumbling blocks though. In the absence of a picture on your blog I can’t work out if you are similar enough in appearance to Walter Matthau or Jack Lemmon to meet SD’s strict grumpy old man entrance criteria. You may have to spend a few years as a candidate member sucking lemons and hurling semi-coherent abuse at passers by before they can consider an application for full membership.

    I understand also that they have a strict membership quota of six these days. You may have to wait until a slot opens up through the death or deepening senility of an existing member. I don’t want to be pushy, you understand. Your political choices are your own, but you might consider taking a number and waiting for your chance to join. It shouldn’t take too long, believe me, there isn’t much of a queue ahead of you.

    Leaving you to consider your organisational future for a moment, and getting back to your first response to me I can only start by congratulating you on your quite wonderful use of “amour propre”. Unfortunately things rather go downhill from there. I’ll leave any other readers who eventually drift in here to make up their own minds on your preference for “artistic licence” in argument, that is for critiquing not the politics of other organisations as they actually are but as you would like them to be. I’m more interested for the moment in your views on the water tax campaign.

    Your views as expressed below seem to chime on this, as on much else, with the views of Socialist Democracy. SD are fairly well known for their single transferable argument when it comes to struggles. It is premised on the assumption that various campaigns (against the Nice Treaty, against the bin tax, against the war, against the water tax) essentially can’t win. Strategies which take place primarily outside the workplace are doomed. The bureaucracy will prevent the trade unions from taking an active role. Therefore the campaigns should stop whatever it is they are doing and concentrate on trying to organise protests outside trade union headquarters.

    What I am interested in is if you as a “fairly experience socialist militant” not representing “the viewpoint of any organisation” also think that the water tax can’t be defeated? And if you think it can be defeated, what do you think campaigners against it should be doing?

  3. splinteredsunrise said,

    January 13, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    I will get to the water campaign in my own good time. Trust me, this will run and run. If you want to know Socialist Democracy’s position, I suggest you read their website.

    I am charmed by “decaying left-nationalism”, given that I’m not a nationalist and don’t even come from a nationalist background. But I assume this is one of those SP cant phrases for positions that fall outside SP orthodoxy.

    As far as SD goes – and I actually know more than six of them – you may be correct to the limited extent that my politics are somewhat closer to them than to say the SP or SWP. But this is certainly not an SD blog, and they will find plenty to disagree with should they start reading it.

    In point of fact, I don’t look like Walter Matthau or Jack Lemon. Nor does any member of SD that I’m familiar with. Although I always though Ted Grant looked a little like Walter Matthau…

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