The Irish Times view on the Irish left: Politics of division

Paul Murphy’s exit from Socialist Party/Solidarity latest in line of undermining splits

Paul Murphy TD at the unveiling of the new political grouping Rise – Radical Internationalist Socialist Environmentalist – in Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Paul Murphy TD at the unveiling of the new political grouping Rise – Radical Internationalist Socialist Environmentalist – in Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

To paraphrase Karl Marx, “the history of all hitherto existing socialist movements is the history of internecine warfare”. The first item on the agenda is the split. And although the latest on the Irish socialist spectrum – TD Paul Murphy’s parting with the Socialist Party/Solidarity – is probably the most amicable and lacking in rancour in the history of the left, it very much epitomises the problem.

Murphy’s departure to create a new group, Rise, reflects the reality that the left, which preaches “workers’ unity”, is incapable of living it. In this case the rigid discipline of the Socialist Party, known as “democratic centralism”, will not allow its representatives to articulate publicly any political line other than that agreed. So, if Murphy in a minority wants to preach the cause of “workers unity”, of building broad left/green alliances, he has to leave. To his former comrades’ credit they seem to have recognised his dilemma and made the parting as painless as possible.

What prospect then of the extraordinary array of Ireland’s non-republican left coming together? Strange as it may seem, most are from the Labour Party gene pool, the product of previous falling out within the traditional party of the trade union movement over its alleged repeated “betrayal” of the cause. Many of the Socialist Party, Rise, and Independents 4 Change were once expelled from Labour, while the leaders of the Social Democrats left of their own volition. Former comrades of the Workers’ Party now populate, and indeed have led, the Labour Party.

On the other hand People Before Profit, and the much reduced Communist Party, have long ploughed their own furrow.

Labour is not interested in returning former rebels to the fold, complaining of doctrinaire rigidities which makes them constitutionally unwilling to embrace compromises necessary to go into government. And hence, unelectable. The hard left’s electoral success in recent years, and Labour’s decline, might make that more debatable. But no one should hold their breath in expectation of an outbreak of fraternity.

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