Oct 29 2013


The RCN has been involved in preliminary discussions with Frontline, the International Socialist Group (Scotland), individual members of the International Socialist Network and Defense of Our Party faction in the SWP, as well as other individuals mainly from an SSP background. Frontline  published the views a number of socialist organisations, which we reposted at http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2013/06/10/socialist-unity/. Stemming from these initial discussions, the RCN has framed 12 questions, which it has sent out to those organisations participating in socialist unity discussions. We will post each response as receive it. We would like to thank Alister Black of Frontline (http://www.redflag.org.uk) and James Foley of the International Socialist Group for the first responses to our questions.





1.     After the demise or major setbacks for Left unity and Socialist unity projects in these islands (SSP, Socialist Alliance, Respect, Forward Wales, United Left Alliance-Ireland), there have been a number of new initiatives recently – the Peoples Assemblies, the proposed Left Unity Party (LUP) and the Socialist Unity Platform (SUP) and International Socialist Network/Socialist Resistance/Anti-Capitalist Initiative (ISN/SR/ACI) unity proposals. However, these have mainly been confined to England and Wales. Why do you think things are less advanced in Scotland at the moment?

The Scottish political environment is now very different to that in the rest of the UK state. The left has faced the problems of its own fractures but also of the ascendance of the Scottish National Party. The left lacks credibility but also has been slow to recover from the self-inflicted wounds of the last few years. At the same time the SNP has presented themselves as social-democrats through reforms such as free prescription charges and abolition of tuition fees (whilst being very friendly to union-busting big business outfits like Amazon).


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Aug 12 2013


The RCN has been chronicling attempts to achieve Left unity in England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland. These attempts have included the formation of the Scottish Socialist Alliance, then the Scottish Socialist Party, the Socialist Alliance and Respect in England and Wales, Forward Wales, the all-Britain Trade Union and Socialist Coalition and No2EU, and the United Left Alliance in Ireland.

All of these initiatives have faltered. One common element has been the sectarian practices of the SWP and the Socialist Party. Another has been dependence on celebrity politicians such as Tommy Sheridan and George Galloway. However, the political problems go deeper than that. The multifaceted crisis capitalism now faces, highlighted by the Credit Crunch, means that capitalism can offer the majority of humanity no way forward. Trying to revivify capitalism by social democratic style neo-Keynesian reforms, particularly on a national basis, represents  a political dead end. It means arguing like those late nineteenth century radicals,  who, when confronted by the New Imperialism, still believed an earlier Victorian ‘free trade’ world could be restored .

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Dec 20 2012


This blog has already commented on the earlier organising behind the Radical Independence Conference. It has also provided a fraternal critique of Britain Must Break, written by James Foley for the International Socialist Group (ISG), the organisation which initiated the RIC. Many others have commented on the conference itself (see end of articles below for links to these)

Below are posted two related articles. The first  examines the politics of the ISG and how these could  influence the future of the RIC. The second makes a comparison between the ISG (which has come out of the SWP tradition) and seeks to reunite the Left in Scotland, and the International Socialist Movement (which came from the CWI/Militant tradition) and sought to unite the Left through setting up the Scottish Socialist Party. Continue reading “RADISSON BLU OR POST-RADISSON RED?”

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Apr 06 2012


The following article was first posted on the Socialist Democracy (Ireland) website.

At its formation the United  Left  Alliance (ULA) appeared to represent a new  resurgence of the Socialist  Movement in Ireland. It brought together a number of different socialist groups, obtained a significant number of votes and representation in the Dail, and put forward an uncompromising revolutionary position with the call to repudiate the  debt  – that Irish workers would not pay to save capitalism to save bankers and speculators.

Politically and organisationally it has retreated from that early promise. The first convention in June was large but politically confused and the main economic discussion centred on a return to the punt rather than repudiation of the debt. Its energy was dissipated in workshops while the real decisions were made elsewhere. Attempts to build a mass demonstration against the budget in September led to a relatively small demonstration subordinate to the trade union bureaucracy.

Early attempts to build a rank and file movement were replaced with much more moderate and a political calls to reclaim the  unions. Attempts to increase ULA representation by campaigning for Ruth Coppanger in the Dublin West by­election were stymied. The major attempt to build a mass campaign around the household charge was not organised by  the  ULA  –  indeed a section of  that campaign insisted that  it was non­-political and  demanded that the ULA be invisible.

However, a statement  by  the Socialist  Party (SP) ruling out  the  possibility  of the ULA being the vehicle for a new party set a sharp brake on the project. The  mid­-January statement  said:

 “Moving to establish a party without the actual involvement of significant numbers of ordinary working  class  people, would lead to it becoming  an  irrelevant  political  sect.  The ULA is not the new  party,  nor  is  it  likely  to  just  become  the new party at some future date.  The ULA is  an  alliance  that  fights  on  issues,  outlines  a  left  and  socialist  alternative  and  crucially  popularises  the  idea  of  a  new  party.  A new party will most likely come from the likes of  the  ULA combining with  community  and  workers’  campaigns  and  struggles.  The Household Tax campaign can involve thousands of people in political activity up and down the country, creating the potential basis for a new party.  ULA members should get fully involved in this struggle”.  

The statement ended with a call  for  activists  to  join  the  Socialist Party.

Yet, in truth, the ULA was  not  operating  as  an  alliance.  The level of co­operation between the constituent  groups  is  at  a  much  lower  level  than  that,  with  each  group  running  their  own  campaigns:  the  SP  and  a  referendum  campaign  and  a  partitionist  trade  union  front  in  the  North,  the  Socialist Workers Party  (SWP) and  their  “Enough”  campaign.  The groups compete for recruits, convinced  that  they  themselves will be the new party of the  working class.  The alliance has in fact  established  itself  as  a  brand  name  or  franchise.   It has established an effective website that carries  a  flood  of  statements  from  TDs,  without  any  coherent  connection  between  them.  Its operation is through an ad ­hoc  “steering  committee”  which  raises  questions  over  the  democratic  credentials  of the group.

Many of these weaknesses  are  recognised  and  acknowledged  by  activists  inside  and  outside  the  ULA.    What is  not  so  clearly  seen  is  that  there  has  been  a  political  retreat  by  the  socialist  movement on the basis for a workers resistance.

The problem is that the ULA, in a December  budget  statement, had  retreated from a wholesale call to repudiate the debt to the much more limited call for a halt to all payments related to paying  for the  private  debt of  the banks.  The major thrust of the statement, not open to general discussion by the membership  in advance  of  its  publication, was  a  thoroughly  reformist  call  on the  capitalist  government  to  invest  for  growth  –  something  totally  impossible  for  a  government  committed  to  austerity,  to  the  bailout  and  under  the  control  of  the  troika.  The effect is to put  the  ULA  alongside  the  trade  union  leadership  who  claim  that  there  is  a  better  fairer  way for  capitalism  to  operate,  while  in  practice  actively  implementing the austerity.

The ULA steering committee has now  agreed  a  conference  at  the  end  of  April.  It appears that diplomatic agreement  has  been  reached  to  include  individual  branches  in  the  steering  committee  and  to  some  extent  increase  the  level  of  democracy inside the alliance.

In the view of Socialist Democracy this is not sufficient. The ULA cannot balance between an organisation with individual members and branches on the one hand and an alliance  of  existing  groups  on  the other.  Much more important  is  the  need  for  a  working  class programme. It is time  to  stop  pretending  that  the  coalition  and  the  troika will adopt an investment for growth programme and stop pretending  that  the  union  bureaucracy’s  “better  fairer  way”  has  any  meaning.  We must stop ignoring the fact that the country has been occupied by the ECB and IMF.

Our focus must be the working  class. We must call on the workers to repudiate the  debt, to wage unremitting war against  cuts  and  closures,  to  set  up  new organisations  independent  of  other  class  forces,  to  seize  control  of  resources  and  capital  abandoned by the capitalists.

People can unite or not unite  as  they  choose. They can build any sort  of organisation. What they must  do  is  try to represent the interests of the working class. This is the burning issue.

(see http://www.socialistdemocracy.org/Bulletins.html#SD%20Bulletin%20March%202012)


Appeal from Socialist Democracy (Ireland) to the United Left Alliance members for a new working class party, May 2012

The crisis of capital and the all-out offensive on the working class continues to unfold. The failure of traditional leaderships means that the workers must develop new structures, new forms of struggle if they are to resist being crushed. The most important structure to unite struggles is a new working class party.

Socialists in the United Left Alliance should fight for such a party. They should fight for the most democratic structure possible, allowing the fullest discussion and analysis closely linked to common action and exploring all the possibilities of resistance open to the working class.

The central elements of the resistance should be:

Opposing utterly the austerity policy pursued by successive Irish governments and supervised by the Troika. 

We oppose the immediate aim of the austerity – that the workers pay the debts of the bondholders or any part thereof.

We oppose the goal of restructuring, aimed at driving wages, services and conditions down in an indefinite race to the bottom.

We assert that there are no “better, fairer ways” to pay the bondholders. A worker’s economic programme to provide jobs and services would require immediately the tearing up all promissory notes and the expulsion of the troika.

The ULA should oppose the trade union leadership’s collaboration in the imposition of austerity. We call for the scrapping of the Croke Park agreement and urge the building of a rank and file trade union network that will unite workers across union structures and allow them to organize against collaboration both inside and outside the unions.


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