I’ll not bother doing Gail Walker this week, as we’re on the Madeleine case again and there is a distinct limit to what can be sensibly said about it. Meanwhile, always on the lookout for a topic, I’m indebted to Frank for drawing the redesign of the SWP website to my attention. This is worth a little look.
It’s ferociously busy, of course, but then the SWP don’t really do laid back. At least it looks much less cluttered than the old layout. I’m not sure about the logo – an enormous “SOCIALIST” beside a tiny “worker”. The paper is still the centrepiece, of course, but instead of the old pdf downloads of SW, which I rather miss, individual articles are posted in what looks very like a blog format. No comments box, but then the glasnost recently noted at An Phoblacht hasn’t spread as far as the left press.
As for the articles themselves… well, the lead editorial, by Dónal Mac Fhéarraigh, is on Éamon Gilmore’s assumption of the Labour leadership. This, we are told, marks a shift to the right for Labour. I could take that more seriously if I didn’t recall the same argument being made for every new Labour leader since at least Dick Spring. If we were to take it literally, Labour would have arrived at fascism long ago. There is also a bit of a kick at Tommy Broughan for his alleged vision of “bringing Labour closer to Fianna Fáil and republicanism” – I’m sure FF appreciate the inadvertent tribute.
The main thrust is that there isn’t a left inside Labour, which is true in the sense that there is no organised socialist tendency. That means a summary dismissal of Labour Youth, who have had an enviable record of annoying Rabbitte over recent years. (They’ve also, not coincidentally, managed to expand by recruiting the sort of kids who used to join the SWP.) The Provos and Greens are also treated to an “expose and denounce” treatment, which in Socialist Worker alternates with the dubbing of those three parties as part of “the left”. I think the SP position on Labour is dogmatic and sectarian, but at least it’s consistent.
And we end up with the bathetic proposition that “The only genuine alternative is the People Before Profit Alliance whose candidates, most notably Sean Mitchell in West Belfast and Richard Boyd Barrett in Dun Laoghaire made a significant impact in the elections North and South. We need to go out and build People Before Profit as the real Left in Ireland in every community, workplace and college. Inside that we need a clear socialist current explaining the limits to reforms under capitalism and why we need to get rid of this system all together.” That’s right, the alternative to Labour, who struggled to elect twenty TDs, is a formation with no elected representatives at all and virtually nobody in it except the SWP. I had been thinking of taking a swipe at Socialist Democracy over their recent lurch into Cartesian positivism on this question, but at least they are sensible enough not to proclaim l’alternative, c’est nous.
A few other things catch the eye. A syndicated piece from Captain Eamo on water charges. A report on the Save Our Barracks campaign in Andytown, and the wee lad on the new Save Ormeau Park campaign, which was demonstrating at the back of City Hall last week. And Dónal bursts into print again with a heroic defence of the Tribunal system.
I am also rather tickled to see Swiss himself jumping to the defence of the Aer Lingus pilots. Now, it’s instinctive for me to support workers in struggle, but we’re not talking about a downtrodden section of the Irish proletariat here. We’re talking about people on a minimum of seventy grand a year for a light workload, made even lighter by Aer Lingus’s extraordinary staffing levels, and extremely generous conditions and benefits. I’m all in favour of supporting the UNITE workers represented by my old comrade Jimmy Kelly, but it does seem a little quixotic for the Great White Chief to be hailing IALPA as being in the vanguard of the class struggle.