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Irish general election: vote United Left Alliance, organise mass resistance to austerity and build a new anticapitalist party

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Voters in many parts of Ireland will have a chance to vote for anti cuts candidates in the General Election on February 25. Bernie McAdam praises the formation of the United Left Alliance (ULA) but argues more, bolder steps will be needed to take the working class struggle in Ireland forward to new heights.

The ULA offers an alternative to all the establishment parties that believe workers should be paying for the greed of the bankers and the bond markets.

It will campaign primarily on opposition to the bailouts and the increasing impoverishment of Irish society.

It is committed not to do any deals or support any coalition which will force workers to pay for the current crisis. It also clearly warns that there can be no solution which is based on the capitalist market where profit is prioritised over social need.

A huge vote for ULA candidates will be an enormous boost to all workers campaigning against job losses, privatisation and the cuts.

It will clearly be a rallying point for all those who reject the EU/IMF deal and the disastrous impact this will have on our standard of living.

Labour treachery
Many trade unions will urge a vote for the Labour Party. But all Eamonn Gilmore has to offer will be another coalition government with Fine Gael.

Labour pathetically voted for the Finance Bill which conveniently binds the next government to a programme of severe cuts and their Brussels’ overlords.

Labour’s 7.5 billion euro cuts are as unacceptable for ordinary people as the establishment parties’ cuts.

Workers should demand that Labour refuses to join a Fine Gael government. Labour leaders who claim to speak on behalf of trade unionists should be held to account and told to fight all the cuts.

Sinn Fein’s opposition to the EU/IMF deal will undoubtedly see an increase in their vote. This anti austerity budget stance is hard to take seriously given Sinn Fein’s role in implementing cuts in the Stormont executive. They will not rule out coalition with parties absolutely committed to cuts. Indeed they have plenty of experience in doing that with their executive partners the Democratic Unionist Party.

Workers should vote for a genuine anti cuts left challenge – Vote United Left Alliance!

Is an electoral challenge enough?
The impact of this historic failure of Irish capitalism demands that a united fight back against the vicious attacks on workers is organised immediately.

Clearly we can use the election to gather support for resistance in whatever form, but an electoral campaign of itself will not halt our rulers from Dublin or Brussels.

The ULA must call for a mighty mass movement of resistance to defeat the cuts. This should culminate in mass strikes and a general strike to scupper any attempts by a new coalition government to make us pay for their system.

We need to build Councils of Action to democratically coordinate the strikes and not leave the trade union leadership to sell out.

The ULA will have no future if it is not rooted in the workplaces and in the community. It has to be the organisation that is intervening and leading the struggles of all workers against the effects of the recession. It must not be seen as merely a loose alliance that comes and goes at election time.

The ULA should convene a conference during the election campaign to organise serious resistance to the attacks. Delegates from trade unions, students’ organisations, pensioners, unemployed and migrant workers should be invited.

A campaign of resistance and direct action should be the key items on the agenda as well as pulling out the vote.

And we need to be clear about our intentions too.

We will need to bring down whatever form the pro-cuts government takes after the election and that means building towards a general strike.

For a new anticapitalist party in Ireland
One of the biggest dangers facing the ULA is that it splits and fractures after the election.

But now more than ever Irish workers need a political force - one isn’t just a loose alliance that comes together at election time to gather protest votes.

We need a new anticapitalist party in Ireland prepared to do battle against the bosses on the streets and in the workplaces.

In France, the formation of the New Anticapitalist Party, though it is not without weaknesses, was a great step forward because it was able to draw in new layers of workers and youth around radical, anticapitalist politics.

The real success of this electoral initiative will be judged on its ability to lead a decisive fight back. Further success will be judged on its ability to organise Irish workers around the anti-capitalist and working class politics we need to win.

Workers won’t indefinitely vote for an alliance; they want a party with a programme addressing all their concerns and that spells out what they stand for, what they would do in power, and how they plan to get there from the day to day struggles.

Democracy in how we organise will be crucial – we need to draw new layers of Irish workers and youth into the project and give them real ownership and control over it.

In the end, it is up to these new forces we rally around the ULA to decide the politics and programme on which it should be founded.

We will need an open and honest discussion on how we can do away with this capitalist system once and for all and what we should replace it with.

Imperialism, women, internationalism - critical issues for the ULA
Any discussion of a new party and programme requires an understanding of Ireland’s position in the world.

This crisis has starkly revealed her terrible dependency on imperialist powers such as the US, EU and Britain.

Socialists should be at the fore in demanding the confiscation of the multinationals’ wealth as indeed with our own millionaires’ and put under workers’ control.

We need a coordinated Europe-wide struggle against austerity.

Equally important is the British imperialists’ grip on the north. If the south’s semi colonial status is highlighted by this crisis then the Good Friday Agreement’s use as a vehicle for cuts as well as copper fastening British occupation also stands exposed.

Any new political formation in Ireland has to address the national question head on and call for the withdrawal of Britain and the dismantling of the sectarian state in the north.

Opposition to the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan are hugely important principles of internationalism, but their significance shouldn’t lead us to forget or downplay our opposition to imperialism on our own back door.

We need an anti capitalist party that also places the fight against women’s’ oppression central to any new programme.

The recession will undoubtedly hit women the hardest. We must be in the forefront of the fight for women’s rights – and crucially for free abortion on demand.

Workers Power is convinced that a new anticapitalist party can be built out of the rubble of decaying capitalism in Ireland.

The ULA has an important opening that should not be squandered. Failure to address the need for a new workers' party in an open and democratic manner after the election will let down the hopes of many militant workers.

Reform or revolution
Too often the far left shies away from the tough questions – of revolution, anti-imperialism, and the need for working class power.

This was never justified, but it is even less so when we are living in a period of terrible capitalist crisis and – as the great Egyptian and Tunisian events of the last weeks show – of revolution.

That’s why we need to be clear about our revolutionary and socialist goals – we need hammer out an action programme for turning the immediate struggles into a fight for working class power.

Socialism won’t come about by winning a majority in the Dial. The ruling class with its imperialist backers from the US, Britain and Brussels will not heed parliamentary majorities when their interests are threatened. They will use their state and media to physically roll back any gains the workers make.

That’s why a real workers government based on democratic workers’ councils and protected by a workers militia needs to be the vehicle that overturns this rotten system. A new anticapitalist party with that goal at the head of its programme is the alternative to those socialists that think reform of capitalism is adequate. The present crisis adds further testimony to the impossibility of that route.

Now is the time to for a revolutionary alternative – fight for a Workers’ Republic!