Trotskyism and Westminster Elections.

A Socialist Republican presents their analysis of Irish Trotskyites committing to take their seats in Westminster if elected•

Socialist Republicans should repudiate the recent behaviour of members of the “left” political party People Before Profit, which has already attracted some criticism from various other organisations. Over the last week, People Before Profit representatives have gone to all lengths to defend running candidates in the imperialist Westminster elections in Occupied Ireland. While it is true that this has been used before as a tactic by anti-colonial movements in Ireland in the context of abstention, People Before Profit candidates have gone further and confirmed that they will be taking their seats as Members of Parliament. Given that People Before Profit claims the legacy of the great Socialist Republican James Connolly, this move is insulting and reprehensible. We must call on People Before Profit to signal a clear commitment to absentionism in Westminster.

People Before Profit has been very clean on the party’s rationale in defending the campaign of the staunchly anti-republican Gerry Carroll. In response to calls for the candidate to not take his seat in the bloody colonial parliament if elected, party members have complained of narrowness and nationalism, oblivious to the fact that refusing seats in Westminster has been a principle of Ireland’s revolutionary struggle for generations. Anti-Imperialist Action Ireland, among other republican and communist organisations, are rightfully boycotting the elections. The party exposes its arrogance by waving off the traditions of the Irish revolutionary movement as “narrow.” Carroll, running for West Belfast, has confirmed that he will take his seat [1] and retweeted calls for those living in Occupied Ireland to register to vote. Ironically, his party correctly criticised Sinn Féin earlier this year for sending representatives to the White House to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Joe Biden. Unable to boycott the equally reprehensible Westminster, they expose themselves as opportunists whose principles bend to convenience.

As mentioned earlier, this is only one of several of the party’s recent blunders. In the recent imperialist European elections, in which candidates vied for Free State seats in the warmongering European Parliament, People Before Profit broke expectations by running Bríd Smith against independent candidate Clare Daly. While you should not endorse any candidate in those elections, it can be understood that this “splitting” of the vote ran contrary to the party’s stated aim of putting a “socialist voice” in Brussels. Daly, albeit in the wrong seat, fulfilled the bare minimum of maintaining a basic anti-imperialist position on Syria and Ukraine. She has supported the cause of Irish republican POW’s, whose plight has only rarely been taken up by a handful of People Before Profit representatives. Smith has been rightly criticised from the left for pointlessly dooming her electoral effort. Republicans should by no means support Clare Daly’s campaign for an imperialist parliament. However, it is useful to remember where one electoralist falls short of another when assessing Smith’s actions.

No anti-imperialism:
What is more concerning is where People Before Profit have fallen short of Clare Daly’s basic standard. Party-list co-runner Ruth Coppinger described Daly’s politics as “rotten” for standing in solidarity with Iran when it was under attack from Yankee imperialism. According to People Before Profit cadre, they are the true opponents of imperialism and militarism. Despite this, not only do they rarely ever use their positions to call attention to the 40+ Irish republican political prisoners, they have also outright supported Western imperialism and the Free State Army in the past. During the war of aggression against Syria, People Before Profit, following their British mother party, the Socialist Worker’s Party, supported the Western-armed Syrian opposition as they had also done in Libya [2][3]. Richard Boyd Barrett spoke alongside salafi jihadist and Western mercenary Mahdi al-Harati at protests against Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad [4].

Bríd Smith, unlike her opponent, failed to stand against pro-war political hysteria upon the outbreak of the inter-imperialist war in Ukraine and Donbass. Bowing to political pressure, she appeared at the protest outside the Russian embassy on the 29th of February 2022, during which the embassy gates were rammed in an effort to provoke tensions and drag Ireland further into the pro-NATO camp. Bríd, unapologetic, continued to attend similar pro-war events attended by Ukrainian fascists. People Before Profit has called for the Ukrainian national debt to be forgiven as its Banderite government throws more funds into the ongoing NATO war effort, refusing all calls for peace so long as it has the resources and blood to do so. It has also called for Ireland to join in on certain economic sanctions [5] against Russia.

While preaching messages of neutrality, the party has been quick to support the war where politically convenient. To call attention to the struggle of the people in Donbass who suffered from NATO bombardment and occupation by Ukrainian Neo-Nazi military groups for 8 years prior was not politically convenient, and so People Before Profit never did it. Seemingly, People Before Profit never pays any attention to any anti-imperialist revolutionary struggle, whether in the Philippines or India, unless it is popular to do so. This trend is mirrored in their attitude towards anti-fascism. People Before Profit avoided the militant anti-fascism led by Irish republicans for over a decade but gladly only recently became the face of opposition to fascism when they could line up behind the mainstream bourgeois left, with the party’s councillors sharing the ICTU’s calls for support for the Gardaí in the wake of riots in Dublin.

In regard to Ireland’s national liberation struggle, the party vies for coalition governments with the pro-internment landlords of Sinn Féin but condemns actual republicans for “sectarianism.” The party’s purity disappears in the face of potential election partners, as the Labour and Green Parties have both been invited to jointly govern the semi-colonial Free State in a “left” government before. The various voting pacts of People Before Profit, masked in radical language, have shown the party’s trajectory towards becoming a ruling partner in a capitalist government time and time again. In 2020 and this year, the party has briefly thrown out all principles in order to pursue unreciprocated love for Sinn Féin and other larger “left” bourgeois parties, only to lapse back into posturing against them as soon as polls close. For those who do not truly believe that People Before Profit truly wishes to go into government with these capitalist parties [6], they have recently announced in their statement “The Left Must Unite to Improve Dublin and Challenge Central Government” that councillors such as Connor Reddy have attempted to form a “left alliance” with Labour and others in Dublin City Council, only to be seemingly ruled out by Labour on principle, where it should have been the other way around. Undeterred, the party continues to beg for a seat at the table.

In order to accept this course and stomach the prospect of governing colonies and semi-colonies, People Before Profit abandons the importance of solving the national and colonial question as a necessary step to socialism altogether, flying in the face of Marx, Lenin, and Connolly. “The cause of labour is the cause of Ireland” is repeated but never understood. They have rejected Irish nationalism and republicanism, revising history by trying to separate James Connolly from his important conclusions on the necessity of the national liberation struggle. While it is right to oppose blatant sectarianism, People Before Profit’s vision of combating it includes avoiding the use of the term “socialist republic” and paying respects to passing unionists in Stormont. Their slogan, “beyond the orange and the green,” only works if you forget the colour of the flag Connolly fought under [7].

They are unable and unwilling to express any international solidarity with numerous ongoing revolutionary armed struggles around the globe, which several far smaller and less-resourced Irish republican organisations have been able to take notice of and report on. Despite this, they still have found time to express solidarity with organisations in America such as the Democratic Socialists of America, a high-profile group of reformists that is hostile to the Palestinian cause and runs candidates for the bloodsoaked imperialist ruling Democratic Party. People Before Profit have been able to publish something as ridiculous as “two islands, one struggle” in solidarity with Long Island [8] before they have been able to utter a word in support of the national liberation of the Basque country, for example. However, the most outrageous offer of People Before Profit’s solidarity is contained below:

“The Minister of State and others have rightly praised the role of our Defence Forces in the public health effort. They have done fantastic work in areas like testing and tracing. Obviously, there is the bravery of forces on missions in Lebanon, Congo and elsewhere. […] The strength of the Defence Forces stands at 1,000 fewer than it needs to be. We have 610 unfilled vacancies at junior non-commissioned officer, NCO, ranks and 77.6% of establishment at the rank of captain. […] We do not have the airlift capacity to bring troops back from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, mission.” [9]

This call to expand the Free State Army from Richard Boyd Barrett in Leinster House is not an outlier. Barrett is merely echoing his party’s disgraceful position of expanding the so-called “Defence Forces,” which have been the bane of the Irish revolution since 1922. People Before Profit’s website says, “People Before Profit supports the greater use of the defence forces as an effective and efficient super civil defence organisation.” [10] The Free State Army has been involved in various imperialist missions worldwide, which Mr. Barrett named and praised accordingly. The UNIFIL mission, which Barrett praises so highly, is part of the effort to undermine the resistance in Lebanon led by Hezbollah, and the UN mission in the Congo is a corrupt occupation widely despised by the local people there, who have been shot protesting against the abuses of the blue helmets [11].

People Before Profit claims to be a revolutionary party. What revolutionary calls for 1,000 more soldiers to work against them to strengthen the arm of the capitalist state they supposedly wish to overthrow? The heart of the issue is that People Before Profit does not wish to overthrow the Free State, nor does it seriously wish to challenge the Occupation. It wants to govern and administrate the semi-colonial and colonial states on this island first before revolution can be spoken of. To do this, it has combined radical lingo with stale, lukewarm reformist politics. It has swapped genuine anti-imperialism for sceptical, but soft support for Western imperialism when sufficiently pressured or tempted to do so.

A “socialist Ireland”:
People Before Profit, despite being led by a group of self-proclaimed Marxists, bends and twists the meaning of the word socialism to suit its objectives. At events such as the Marxism Festival, the party’s TDs freely talk about Marx and Engels and how they will abolish capitalism and bring about a classless society. While the party’s aim to do this through Leinster House is dubious enough, “socialism” itself as an end goal means little in the party’s policy. People Before Profit confuses bourgeois-democratic reforms with socialism in “A Budget for a Left Government.” The party lists token concessions, such as a 20% raise to corporate tax, a €2 pay rise for child care workers, and no tolls on the M50, insists that they be carried out by their proposed capitalist “left” coalition, and then has the nerve to praise them as a “rapid ecosocialist transformation of Irish society.” [12]

This is an example of ring road socialism, or “gas and water” socialism. The replacement of revolutionary ideals, the dictatorship of the working class, and the complete transformation of society and property relations, with meagre reforms squeezed out of the capitalist state. Socialist Republicans have always aimed for the reorganisation of Irish society into a classless one, something that can only be done through socialism, under what Marx called the “revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.” [13] Voting left and transferring landlord will not achieve this change in class power. It will not be achieved in the labourite social democracy of the above budget, and certainly not in People Before Profit’s fantasies of a “left Europe.” Their proposals for Free State socialism muddle James Connolly with their other hero, Free State minister Noel Browne, to whose legacy it makes perhaps its only correct claim.

The party’s ideological failings explain its errors as an “activist party” also. People Before Profit has misbehaved on numerous campaigns that Socialist Republicans have with them worked on, experiencing the party’s general untrustworthiness and bad reputation firsthand. The involvement of certain PBP representatives in the Trinity encampment is a notable recent example, where some party members were against the selling-out while others actively orchestrated it, highlighting the division within the party. The party has absorbed numerous young activists through aggressive, salesman-like recruitment campaigns over the last few years. It is common practice for People Before Profit officials to hand around membership sign-up forms at public events, always looking for new members to burn out. These people, often revolutionary in mind and far more radical than their party’s leadership, or the leadership of any of the entryist factions festering inside it, are being used as nothing more than leafleteers and canvassers, sold on a promise of a revolutionary Marxist party while they are tricked into getting Gerry Carroll into Westminster or the Green Party into government. If People Before Profit does not seriously reflect on its behaviour in many of the campaigns it has worked in, these people will continue to leave politics with the same grace by which they were inducted.

If the party chooses to end their bid to sit in Westminster, it may show some hope of salvage in the face of its disastrous reformist trajectory. “I hold that every class-conscious worker should work for the freedom of the country in which he lives, if he desires to hasten the political power of his class in that country.” [14]

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