WITH FFG IN FOR THE LONG HAUL, WHAT NOW FOR THE LEFT?

Last week the Irish Government, through the office of the Attorney General, changed the law retrospectively in order to get its second-in-command, already under criminal investigation for corruption, off the hook.

Whatever moral authority FFG had left has now vanished. We are clearly ruled by criminals and criminal accomplices. But their political control of the state remains, & given that all the Green Party TDs, the weak link in the coalition, are likely to lose their seats at the next election, we will very likely be ruled by these criminals until 2024 or 2025.

Although one cannot rule out them being brought down by mass protest or by even greater scandal, I think the likelihood now is, thanks to the greens, they will go full term.

This is, no doubt, disheartening, especially for those on the left whose central strategy is electoralism. Both Sinn Fein & PBP may well spend the next four years proposing admirable bills that have no hope of passing, alongside more of those fierily eloquent speeches we hear from SF front benchers and PBP. Rousing speeches which fire the blood of many, and are very often the exact right thing to say, but do not produce results or in general translate into transformative political action outside parliament.

There is something theatrical to all of this militant rhetoric – without any accompanying movement which would have any hope of carrying out the militant programs & promises the rhetoric contains. There is something essentially empty & futile about it. How long can it go on before it causes workers to become cynical about the left and all the hot air it produces, to no purpose, in the Dail? Or indeed before the speechmakers & billdrafters themselves become cynical about the working classes capacity for self-emancipation, & move to the right, taking the option of an individual political career over a commitment to mass politics – a trend which is already evident.

Since 2000 Sinn Fein have gone from having 1 seat to a real chance of an overall majority in the next GE. The far left has gone from 1 seat to 10 or so, depending who you include. This is very welcome, & reflects the general trend towards a more liberal Ireland. The far left has also played a crucial role in both the water charges campaign & repeal the 8th, a role that was perhaps – & it is only a perhaps – made more likely & effective because of the public prominence of far left TDs.

But the subordinate position of the working class in society has obviously not changed one iota in those 20 years & indeed the overall conditions & prospects for working class people in areas such as health, housing, education, & employment rights & conditions have significantly disimproved, despite all the rousing, spot-on speeches in Leinster House.

Take the example of the housing crisis. The political impotence of a parliamentary strategy is nowhere more obvious than it is with the housing crisis. The better the speeches about it by Pearse Doherty & Richard Boyd Barrett, the worse it gets.

What is the way out of this seeming cul-de-sac? More action, less talk, maybe? And a willingness to do what FFG feel so comfortable doing – break the law when the situation demands. Surely, for example, we should be encouraging & facilitating not only the homeless & the newly evicted but also absolutely everyone on the housing list to occupy & squat all those empty buildings everywhere in Ireland?

This would be entirely morally justified – thousands of empty buildings in a homeless crisis is a moral abomination. And it may provoke the kind of clash with the State which will have to come sooner or later (and sooner, better) if there is to be any reality atall to the notion that workers can free themselves – remember that the climate crisis really does mean the imminent collapse of industrial civilization and so also that the left & the proletariat are running out of time to fulfill the historical mission assigned to them by The Communist Manifesto. Not so much If not now, when? than If not now, there is no when.

Mass squatting is also, btw, the only environmentally responsible solution to the housing crisis – you can’t claim to be serious about the climate crisis at the same time as proposing to pour the concrete & smelt the steel for hundreds of thousands of new buildings, you might as well go & set fire to every forest in Ireland as do that in terms of the environment…