Green resurrection and need to unite the Left

Left unity has to be built through united activity at grassroot level.


It is unfortunate that Sinn Fein has lost so much ground to the market-friendly Green Party in the recent elections in the Republic of ireland. While Sinn Fein can, at best, be described as a somewhat left of centre organisation, the outcome of the recent round of elections indicates a worrying shift towards the centre-right in electoral terms.

There are several reasons for the Sinn Fein setback, coming as it does on the back of an equally disappointing performance in last year’s presidential election. The party has struggled to articulate a clear message over the last few years. This has not been helped by among other; doing a U-turn on its long-held opposition to the European Union, softening its stance on coalition with right-wing parties and confusingly for many republicans; welcoming British royalty to Ireland. For a party that had for long appeared unambiguous about its position, this new departure has failed to gain purchase with many of those it had previously depended on for support.

It is uncertain whether Sinn Fein can reverse this decline before the next general election. A third and consecutive reversal would not only be damaging for the party, raising questions about its leadership but would also have implications right across the board. The Fine Gael/Fianna Fail axis would grow stronger with its neoliberal policies becoming further embedded. Faced with the threat of permanent right-wing governance, the working-class and its representatives would have to consider their options. Understandably, there will be calls for working-class and left unity and few could argue with this.


However, it is surely time to give this altogether reasonable demand some deeper consideration. All too often, left unity is considered only in the context of winning electoral office rather than building a social changing movement. Consequently, for some, gaining seats at all costs becomes the primary objective making divisive contests and subsequent factionalism almost inevitable. There is, moreover, the real question of how to exercise power, as distinct from office, if elected in a country controlled by privately owned wealth.


A viable alternative to this particular electoral cul-de-sac is to focus on building an effective grassroots movement capable of challenging the undemocratic distribution of wealth in society. Encouraging and facilitating people to actively support workers taking industrial action would be a start; and active support is not just posing on the picket line for a photo opportunity. Organising an effective boycott of properties bought by vulture funds would also help. Tackling the privatisation of services and infrastructure must feature. Challenging the environment damaging private-sector exploitation of our natural resources has also to be included in any programme. Nor is this the limit to what can be done and we all must talk about how to affect this.


Doing so would effectively empower working people and make the winning of a general election a final step towards transforming society rather than a beginning that woudl be vulnerable to attack by capital and all its reactionary allies.

Tommy McKearney … 29 May 2019

This© Tommy McKearney 2012                                                                                      email:    tommymkearney@me.com