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17 November 2010

Ireland: United Left Alliance to challenge at next general election

THE NEWLY established United Left Alliance (ULA), which will be publicly launched on 26 November, involves the Socialist Party, the People Before Profit Alliance, the South Tipperary Workers and Unemployed Action Group and the Independent Socialist group of Declan Bree in Sligo.

Kevin McLoughlin, Socialist Party Ireland

The ULA is a joint slate or alliance of candidates that will put forward a real left alternative in the general election and challenge the austerity and capitalist consensus amongst all the parties in the Dáil [Irish parliament] - Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Greens but also clearly including Labour and Sinn Fein.

The ULA flows from a process of discussions initiated some time ago by the Socialist Party. The ULA could possibly stand up to 20 candidates in the general election.

In pushing for the establishment for a slate/alliance, the Socialist Party argued that it was very important to try to get a fraction of genuinely left TDs [MPs] elected, given the devastating economic crisis of capitalism.

The ULA was primarily established on the basis of agreement on a political programme, agreement on specific candidates that were credible, as well as how other potential candidates could be agreed. There was an agreement on a democratic and consensual approach to decision making and establishing structures of the ULA.

In the initial discussions which only involved the Socialist Party and the PBPA (which is led by the Socialist Workers Party), there were disagreements, particularly with the SWP, on the issue of whether an alliance should explicitly advocate socialist policies and socialism as the solution to the crisis.

The Socialist Party did not agree with the SWP's view that socialist policies would put people off from voting for candidates or from getting involved in a left alliance.

We demonstrated that Joe Higgins (Socialist Party MEP) got more than 50,000 votes in the last European parliament elections while being one of the most identifiable socialists in the country with radical and socialist policies. Socialism was advocated in his leaflets that went into every home in Dublin.

If a new left movement isn't rooted in a socialist outlook that wants to break definitively with capitalism, it too will ultimately fail, regardless of whether it has TDs or councillors.

Even though there wasn't agreement on the need for an explicitly socialist programme, the Socialist Party felt we should continue to try to establish an alliance as that would be a step forward for working class people.

We fully support the programme that the ULA has agreed but the Socialist Party, while advocating the ULA programme, will exercise its right to also put forward socialist programme in our own election material.

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