Why can’t all the socialists get together?


The Irish Socialist Network is talking to a half dozen other groups about unity. The Socialist Workers Party, always in a hurry, simply wants everyone else to join their People Before Profit creation. Every few years we see the same game played, “why won’t the Judean Peoples Front join the Judean Popular Front?”

Across the sea the Scottish Socialist Party and George Galloway’s RESPECT coalition were the latest examples of ‘socialist unity’. Both ripped themselves asunder as massive egos fought to be leaders of small parties.

Interestingly, after these disasters, there is no discussion about what sort of 'socialism' all this effort is in aid of. Nobody is asking the most important question – what do we mean by ‘socialism’?

Should the country be ruled by a parliament, by workers' councils or even by a one party dictatorship? Should it be old-style left Labour or libertarian socialism? Should it be sympathetic to the regime in Cuba, or even to the totalitarian Stalinist dynasty in North Korea? Where would freedom fit into things?

Anarchists have a good record of working alongside others to win whatever victories are presently possible and of using methods that encourage working class self-confidence rather than reliance on personalities or leaders.

However when it comes to the proposals for ‘left unity’ we need to look at what is on the table – most immediately it’s an alliance for the 26 county local elections next summer.

The failure of the left in the last century was, to a very large extent, that it adopted the political organisation of capitalism in promoting a system of choosing some person or party to govern the working class.

This emphasis on leaders and parties is also a legacy of the failure of 20th century 'socialism'. Let us not forget that practically all of this left takes its inspiration from the Bolshevik party and its state capitalist dictatorship in the old Soviet Union. What we need today is not some sort of united front of existing minor parties, but rather a break with that whole methodology.

Most importantly, real socialism is inseparable from freedom and direct democracy. Freedom to speak, to discuss, to travel, to organise, to take control of our own lives. All those effected by a decision should have the opportunity of taking part in making that decision. We reject as contrary to our political project any vision of socialism that does not explicitly oppose the division of people into rulers and ruled.

Issue 105 of Workers Solidarity Sept/Oct 2008

[PDF of southern edition of WS 105] [PDF of northern edition of WS 105]