The People Before Profit Alliance. Made In Britain?

The Ireland correspondent of the UK’s Guardian newspaper, Henry McDonald, writing in today’s edition on the Stormont assembly election in the constituency of West Belfast:

“Gerry Carroll stood for People Before Profit (PBP), a leftist party with its roots in the Socialist Workers Party in Britain.”

Ouch!

The People Before Profit Alliance (PBPA), as it is properly known, functions as the electoral front of the far left Socialist Workers Party (SWP), a group that does indeed trace its origins to Trotskyist supporters of the British SWP living in Ireland during the 1970s. I won’t go into the labyrinthine details of the organisation’s history here. Enough to say that for most of its existence the SWP has in one form or another spent more time attacking other leftists for alleged thought-crimes against the revolution than it has done tackling the perceived inequities of the capitalist system.

I don’t really have much regard for the SWP-proper or its rivals in the Socialist Party (SP), another groupsicle of Trotskyist ideologues with links to Britain, this time hiding behind the cover name of the Anti-Austerity Alliance. That said, you’ve probably read articles by me praising the Anti-Austerity Alliance–People Before Profit coalition for the trojan work it has done in Irish politics since 2015, tackling everything from water charges to corruption in An Garda Síochána. The value of this cannot be underestimated. However it says much for a peculiarly British strand of socialism on this island nation that its main proponents need to obscure their existence behind front organisations in order to contest elections with any degree of success.

Arguably, it was the UK-centric nature of the PBPA’s politics which led it to support the anti-European Union Brexit vote in the United Kingdom last summer. Which, of course, includes the latter’s colonial jurisdiction over the north-east of this country. This puts the grouping more in line with the Corbyn wing of Britain’s Labour Party than it does with mainstream left-wing sentiment here. This very British way of looking at things can be seen in the statements issued by the People Before Profit Alliance in recent years, with their obsession over the “Tories” and references to the “Southern Irish government”.

As I may have said before, we live in a funny old country.

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4 comments

  1. On the one hand FFFG etc are Tories. And its not long since Sinn Féin would talk about the Free State .But…you make a good point. Labour is not really perceived as an Irish party outside Dublin. A situation they seem quite comfortable with.

    1. I genuinely admire the AAA-PBP as a beneficial force in Irish politics and a much needed one at that. But the founding parties, SP and SWP, always go nuts when you mention their role as the power behind the electoral front. Usually along the lines of EVERYONE knows we exist as parties so WHY are you mentioning that we exist as parties? Because, y’know, politics. Now I’m getting abusive “green slime” emails from alleged PBPA members. Which tells its own story.

      Labour is in some senses as much a Leinster party as Sinn Féin was an Ulster one. Regional rather national. You’re right about that.

  2. The Corbyn/McDonnell leadership certainly seem to have sent out some mixed messages on the issue of Ireland. On the one hand a very genuine identification with Republicanism from a left perspective across the years. On the other – and this is all too typical of British perspectives, near enough no regard for what the outworkings of a Brexit would be for this island. Even the grudging Remain approach Corbyn took is of a piece with that latter. But then, why are we surprised?

    1. Very true. British politics is about Britain (for which one should read England and its environs). The Corbyn wing, for all its internationalist record, is still going to put domestic concerns above any other concerns. Realpolitik not Irischpolitik. Christ, it’s bad when you can say that centrist Tony Blair did more as the Labour leader for long-term stability in Ireland than Corbyn has done up to now in the same position.

      As for the article more broadly, it was a tongue-in-cheek pop at the SWP-PBPA, flipping off McDonald’a sly dig in the Guardian (I cannot believe that he included it with a British readership in mind most of whom would have asked, “What’s the Socialist Workers Party?”).

      Unfortunately Trots have no sense of humour – or proportion – at all 🙂

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