With hundreds of thousands of people having taken to the streets in the great revolt over water charges and austerity as a whole and with a general election looming there is an urgent need for the left to unite its forces.
In this context the People Before Profit Alliance has issued an ‘Appeal for a Radical Left Alliance’
This appeal argues that:
A key strategic focus will be the need to promote an organised boycott of the charges. However, alongside this there is a growing realisation among many activists that there is a need for a parallel political challenge to the current ruling elite.
Such a challenge should promote clear anti-austerity policies, offer a positive vision of a different Ireland and outline a different way of doing politics so that it is connected with a desire for people power.
Any talk of a challenge to the government and to austerity raises the question of Sinn Fein. With Fianna Fail flatlining the government and the media often present Sinn Fein as the main opposition. And indeed Sinn Fein’s standing in the polls puts it well ahead of any the left parties or groupings.
People Before Profit are more than willing to work and cooperate with Sinn Fein on many campaigns as they have done over the water charges. They are also clear that they would prefer a Sinn Fein led government to any of three ‘mainstream’ pro-austerity parties. Thus PBP representatives in the Dáil would vote for Gerry Adams or Mary Lou McDonald for Taoiseach against Enda Kenny or Joan Burton.
Nevertheless PBP is not in favour of entering a political alliance with Sinn Fein. ‘We believe’, says the appeal, ‘there needs to be a genuine left alternative that offers a different pole of attraction’.
In the present circumstances such a pole of attraction could win the support of large numbers of working people who have been radicalized by the water charges revolt and by years of anti-working class austerity.
The rise of Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain shows the potential.
The Appeal explains People Before Profit’s reasons for wanting an alternative to the left of Sinn Féin.
- While attacking austerity in the South, Sinn Fein is implementing similar policies in the North.
- It has not ruled out the coalition with establishment parties such as Fianna Fail in a future government.
- It does not place a strong emphasis on ‘people power’ as a strategy for change and is opposed to an organised boycott of water charges.
The appeal also sets a number of key principles on which it would like the left alliance to be based
- The abolition of water charges, the property tax and the USC for those on average or below average incomes.
- Unilateral action to cancel Irish debt caused by bankers’ gambling.
- A national health service that treats all according to medical need and not the size of their wallets.
An emergency programme to build social houses and immediate rent controls.
- It should rule out participation in a future coalition with any establishment party.
- It should favour a 32 county wide movement against austerity.
- It should raise taxes on corporations to fund the reduction of USC on PAYE workers
- It should stand openly for a woman’s right to choose and the Repeal of the 8th Amendment.
- It should demand the closure of direct provision centres for asylum seekers.
- It should support a call for a boycott of water charges and encourage workers to turn their unions into organisations of struggle.
The Appeal recognizes that this ‘is by no means a definitive or exhaustive list’ and that ‘no doubt there may be some differences of emphasis’ between different forces on the radical left in Ireland. Nevertheless it says:
it is our firm conviction that there is also substantial agreement on these policies among People Before Profit, the Anti-Austerity Alliance and many independent socialists and community and trade union activists.
The Appeal does not attempt to specify in advance the precise nature of the proposed alliance, leaving open whether it would be primarily an electoral slate or something more developed,. This it says would have to be agreed by those composing the alliance.
Nevertheless it urges all on the radical left in Ireland to support this move towards left unity and ‘to start urgent discussions to bring it about’.
People wishing to support this call and sign the letter should go to http://www.peoplebeforeprofit.ie/