Since I had a slightly tongue-in-cheek poke at the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), the Trotskyist grouping behind the People Before Profit Alliance, I thought it only fair to have a somewhat harsher look at its rivals in the Socialist Party (SP), which also uses an electoral cover name, the Anti-Austerity Alliance (AAA). Of course, both parties contest national elections on the joint AAA-PBP ticket, while the PBPA is taking part in the regional election to Stormont under its own front organisation.
While its easy to acknowledge the valuable contribution the AAA-PBP has made to progressive politics in Ireland since 2015, the ideological aims of the SP/AAA component of the coalition is rather harder to swallow. This can be summed up in the party’s negative response to calls for a “border poll” in the wake of the United Kingdom’s Brexit referendum last year, and the perilous effect this is likely to have on long-term stability and peace for this island nation. From the July-August edition of the SP/AAA newspaper, The Socialist, comes this uncompromising message from Daniel Waldron:
“The Socialist Party is opposed in principle to a border poll and, in the event of one being called, we would actively campaign for a boycott of the vote. A border poll would be nothing more than a sectarian headcount and would resolve nothing. A binary referendum is not a basis to reconcile the two communities, with their opposing identities and aspirations. It would serve only to heighten tensions and pit Catholic and Protestant workers and young people against each other. The ‘losing side’ would not stoically accept its fate. Such a poll would only deepen divisions and stoke the flames of sectarian conflict.
A majority of Catholics aspire towards Irish unity at least at some point in the future, for cultural reasons and because of the history of discrimination and oppression within the Northern state. Conversely, Protestants support the maintenance of the Union of for cultural reasons and because they fear becoming a vulnerable minority within a capitalist united Ireland.
Socialism is about organising society for need not profit and is about creating a society based on solidarity not discrimination and division. It Is for this reason that the Socialist Party has advanced the programme of a socialist Ireland with no coercion and where the rights of minorities are guaranteed as part of a voluntary democratic and socialist confederation of Scotland, England and Wales and with the rest of Europe.”
Given that the parastate of “Northern Ireland” was created and maintained on the basis of a “headcount”, and its agreed end is on the basis of a “headcount”, the logic of the SP/AAA position escapes me. Would its principled opposition to a plebiscite in the north-east of the country still apply even if the vote were likely to yield a majority for reunification? This point was repeated when thejournal.ie asked the border poll question of the party in December of last year:
The Anti-Austerity Alliance TDs – Ruth Coppinger, Paul Murphy and Mick Barry – are opposed to the calls for a border poll. A border poll would be nothing more than a sectarian headcount and would resolve nothing.
The AAA TDs, alongside socialist and trade union activists in the North, would actively campaign for a boycott of this vote.
Neither community has the right to coerce the other into a state they do not want to be part of on the basis of a simple majority vote.
But that is exactly what we have now, and what we have had since the 1920s! The published response by the SP/AAA was at pains to avoid any mention of its ultimate goal for Ireland: its integration into a “socialist confederation of Scotland, England and Wales“. Indeed the party was more explicit in previous years, advocating for a “socialist Confederation of Great Britain and Ireland“, though this has been parsed down somewhat, appearing on the “About Us” section of the party website as:
We are for a socialist solution – working class unity to bring about a socialist Ireland as a free and voluntary part of a socialist federation of Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales and, on a wider scale, of a socialist European federation.
Which is little more than left-wing British unionism, and not of the trade union variety. A federation of Ireland and Britain, in whole or in segmented parts, would be a wholly unequal union, a return to the London-centred hegemony we previously experienced under several centuries of colonial rule. Hanging a red banner on the British flagpole and calling it a “Socialist Federation” doesn’t make it any less a “United Kingdom”.
Of course the SP/AAA knows this full well which is why it is so coy with the terminology, including the language used by it new electoral front in the Six Counties, the Cross-Community Labour Alternative (yes, yet another cover name for the party). The CCLA apparently wants to:
Unite with those in the Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England engaged in the same fight for a better life.
Which is arguably the same federalist agenda as the SP/AAA parent grouping, albeit with more palatable phrasing. I may respect the hard work done by the chameleon Socialist Party and its front organisations in challenging the cosy, right-wing political consensus on this island nation, but Ireland in a Red UK? I don’t fucking think so…