Post referendum - Together for Election?


So now that the referendum is won and the government is moving towards enacting legislation that allows limited access to abortion, we're starting to hear questions being raised about Together for Yes activists running in elections. [1] For many people, the conspicuous endpoint of any political campaign is for the political activists to put forward one of their number to run for political office. We are going to argue against that for a number of reasons.

If your strategy to change our society for the better is based around electing 'people we can trust' into positions of power so they can enact legislation that is in the interests of the working class, then the primary focus of your activity is going to have to be on elections.

Competing with well-oiled establishment parties and their electoral machines means a left-wing electoral group has to spend most of its time and energy building towards election campaigns. This is energy that could otherwise be poured into direct action political campaigns like those that won hugely significant victories around the water charges and the recent referendum on the 8th Amendment.

Additionally, the person encouraged to run for election is going to be one of the most experienced organisers. If elected, that organisers' valuable energies are now being expended in a council chamber or in the Dáil where they are on hostile ground, playing by the State's rules, surrounded and outnumbered by right wing people. That organisers' time would be far better spent in community organising and on the streets working together with like minded organisers. Our power to change things is built up in our communities and on the streets, not the Dáil or the council chamber.

We recently saw, in Kildare County Council, this dynamic playing out where three right-wing men cooperated to prevent a woman councillor's pro-choice motion from even being discussed in a council session, never mind being voted on.[2] If anything, the Dáil is going to have even more controls, checks & barriers on left-wing activity than a council chamber. Why expend a huge amount of time, money and energy to send one of your best organisers into that kind of dead end?

It's worth noting that a great many people view 'politics' as something that is divorced from their lives that is carried out behind closed doors by a professional class of people who occasionally appear as talking heads on our television screens. While this is a commonly held view, it is something that needs to be challenged as it facilitates abandoning 'politics' to a right wing political class who will work to shape our society to their liking. We can't afford to stand back and let them do that, we need to be politically active and force changes that we want to see, as we have done.

While bearing that in mind, we should understand that the strategy of running in elections is a waste of time, and is even more so if you are successful. We should not promote a 'Can't someone else do it?' political culture where people are encouraged to vote for someone to go into a State-controlled forum and try to chip away at major political problems from in there. Instead, we should encourage people to become politically engaged in their communities, to educate themselves and each other, and to organise effectively against the problems our society faces. Let's organise in our communities, on our terms and by using direct action, because that is what gets results.



Further reading on why elections are not useful for advancing left wing movements: